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27 Mar, 2012

Global Peace Groups Launch “Welcome to Palestine” Campaign


Join Land Day events around the world including the global march to Jerusalem (March 30th see http://www.gm2j.org), and then join us (or at least help) in the Welcome to Palestine Campaign

*CALL FOR PARTICIPATION*  Welcome to Palestine Campaign April 15th-21st, 2012

Palestinian civil society organizations and peace and human rights defenders and activists call on the international community to join us on April 15th-21st for peace building in Palestine and to challenge the Israeli siege of the occupied territories. Over 1500 people of conscience from over 15 countries are scheduled to arrive for this year’s WTP campaign.

The first Welcome to Palestine (WTP) Campaign in December 2010 brought 100 individuals. The second WTP in July 2011 saw hundreds of individuals purchase airline tickets and attempt to board planes to Palestine.  Israel sent a “black list” of 342 participants from the ages of 9 to 83 years old to prevent them from boarding planes sparking huge protests in several international airports. The Israeli military also turned the airport near Tel Aviv into a military compound.  One hundred twenty-seven women and men were arrested at Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv and then imprisoned for several as they insisted on their right to visit Palestinian associations and families.

Still, a lot of good resulted from this as well. As a result of legal challenges, many European airlines not only fully refunded the tickets, but also agreed not to repeat the incident.  Furthermore, the publicity shed light on Israel’s attempts to deny visits by internationals for humanitarian peaceful support to millions of Palestinians living under occupation. Lastly, despite these obstacles, many activists were in the end able to join the activities carried out throughout the occupied areas throughout the week of July 9th, 2011. The international community recognizes the basic human right of Palestinians to receive visitors from abroad and support the right of their own citizens to travel to Palestine without harassment (see http://www.righttoenter.ps/). We pledged that where Israel works to isolate us, we invite all to join us openly and proudly. We reject all attempts to isolate and silence us.  We are thus having larger programs to challenge the siege.

With the help of the international community, we will achieve our goal of peace and freedom and thus restore the values and principles that we share as human beings. We believe in global popular resistance as a method to achieve implementation of International Law and Human Rights, especially where governments fail to act. We believe that every single one of us is a change maker, and nobody has the right to deny access to suffering populations. We call on more internationals to join the hundreds who already booked their tickets and come help us begin to build a school, work with farmers, and join the struggle to bring peace with justice.

Below are frequently asked questions about this campaign. Email: media@palestinejn.org  Campaign websites: http://palestinejn.org  and http://bienvenuepalestine.com

Frequently Asked Questions: Welcome to Palestine April 15th-21st, 2012

*Who is traveling to Palestine the week of April 15th, 2012?*

Fifteen hundred to twenty-five hundred human rights activists between the ages of 9 and 90 years old from over 15 countries.

*Who invited them?*

Palestinian civil society organizations, peace and human rights defenders, as well as activists on the ground made the call. They include the following (list in formation):

Al-Awda Center, Beit Sahour  Al-Rowwad Cultural and Theatre Training Centre, www.alrowwad-acts.ps

The Alternative Information Center – AIC – www.alternativenews.org

BADIL Resource Center for Palestinian Residency and RefugeeRights: www.badil.org/

Bil’in Popular Resistance Committee www.bilin-village.org

Friends of Freedom and Justice, Bil’in www.bilin-ffj.org

Handala Center – www.handalla-center.org  Holy Land Trust: www.holylandtrust.org

International Solidarity Movement: www.palsolidarity.org

Les Enfants, le Jeu et l’Education www.ejepal.org

Occupied Palestine and Golan Heights Advocacy Initiative

Palestinian Centre for Rapprochement between People www.PCR.PS<http://www.pcr.ps/>

Palestinian Conflict Resolution Center (Wi’am) www.alaslah.org/

Palestine Justice Network www.palestinejn.org

Palestine Solidary Campaigns in many countries  Palestine Solidarity Project WWW.palestinesolidarityproject.org<http://www.palestinesolidarityproject.org/>

Popular Committees in different villages and towns  Siraj Center for Holy Land Studies, www.sirajcenter.org  Youth Against Settlements (Hebron)

*What happened in previous Welcome to Palestine Campaign events?*

We had two previous campaign events: Christmas 2010, and July 2011.  In 2010, one hundred activists traveled to Palestine in the spirit of Christmas to join local Palestinians for a week of activities. Together we worked towards peace and justice as we believe Jesus would want us to do. We spent time with refugees in camps, met with villagers facing home demolitions, land confiscation and construction of the Apartheid Wall on their land. We prayed, sang, and shared meals with the marginalized, with children, women, and the elderly.

One July 9th, 2011, we made second call for internationals to join us on the anniversary of the International Court of Justice ruling which declared that the Apartheid Wall and colonial settlements are illegal. The goal of the campaign in July was to have activists enter Palestine without having to represent their intentions. Several airlines canceled reservations for hundreds of Europeans based on lists they received from the Israeli authorities. The Israeli military also turned the Airport into a military compound. Israel sent a “black list” of 342 participants from the ages of 9 to 83 years old to prevent them from boarding planes thus sparking huge protests in several international airports. One hundred twenty-seven women and men were arrested at Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv and imprisoned for several days as they insisted on their right to visit Palestinian associations and families.

The event exposed Israel’s behavior to the world. The events demonstrated the following:

– Though the Israeli police and military kept filming the activists during their arrest and provoked them on several occasion (for example, beating a young woman in front of the other volunteers), they were not able to produce one image of violence on the side of the Welcome to Palestine campaign participants.

– Not only is there a siege on Gaza, but also a blockade on the other side of Palestine. Israel has too many atrocities to hide there and they do not want any solidarity with the Palestinians.

– The Israeli government and its supporters want to demoralize Palestinians and expel them, not let internationals show them that they are not isolated and that women and men of conscience are aware of their suffering and the way it endangers the values of justice, international law and human rights in the whole world.  But we persist and grow.

– Other good results happened despite Israeli government brutality.  For example as a result of legal challenges, many European airlines not only fully refunded the tickets but had to agree not to repeat such a mass denial of boarding.  Another example is that the publicity shed light on the attempts by Israel to deny visits by Internationals for humanitarian support to millions of Palestinians living under occupation.

And many Internationals activists did join us activities were carried out throughout the occupied areas throughout the week (July 9-15) that included solidarity and peace building. We learned and adapted and grow from dozens in the first campaign to hundreds in the second campaign and now we expect over 1500 to arrive for this campaign.

*What do you believe? What do you hope to accomplish?*

We believe in the power of collective action to transform situations of injustice to situations of justice and hence peace. Internationals have joined Palestinians in our struggle for freedom and for peace over the past few decades. Such joint action has shown its efficacy to bring hope and to transform reality in eh previous actions as noted above.

Palestinians throughout historic Palestine and in exile believe in and work for peace based upon justice and trust that with the help of the international community we will achieve our peace and freedom and restore the values and principles that we share as human beings. We believe in popular resistance as a method to achieve implementation of International Law and Human Rights. We believe that every single one of us is a change maker, and nobody has the right to deny us the access to suffering populations.

Palestinians suffer not only from the brutality of the occupation and colonization, from the annexation of their lands, from the eviction of whole families and house demolitions, but also from isolation, being deprived of their freedom of movement and from open and honest visits by the International community.

Humans from around the world will show solidarity with Palestinian popular resistance by observing and obeying international law inactions of land reclamation, education and peace building in a joyous and fraternal atmosphere.

*Will Israeli authorities allow us to enter?*

Israel, the occupying authority is obligated by international treaties not to prevent Internationals entry at its border points.  Israeli authorities do attempt to deny entry illegally under International laws and there are numerous cases of denial of entry. Reciprocity between countries demands that no national of countries with diplomatic relations with Israel should be denied entry simply because that national wishes to visit Palestinians. Entering Palestine through Ben Gurion airport by hundreds of people over 48 hours will send a message that we want Israel to recognize the basic human right of entering to Palestine by those who want to visit us.  See the Right to Enter Campaign at http://www.righttoenter.ps/. The choice of how to behave at the border is certainly an individual choice done in context of the ground effort to affect a change in Israeli illegitimate behavior. Many groups did decide to challenge the undemocratic and arbitrary policy of denial of entry.

Israel destroyed the only Palestinian airport, built with money from Europe. As a result, we have no other option but to go through Israeli security, even though we want to visit our Palestinian friends. We are pacifists and we will have nothing dangerous in our bags. We call on our elected representatives and our governments, to ensure that we shall be normally and properly treated on our arrival in Ben Gurion airport, as are Israeli citizens when they come to our countries.

We denounce the blockade on Gaza, but Israel imposes a second blockade, equally intolerable if not more deceitful, upon the Palestinian territories of the West Bank, refusing people entry without reason, humiliating travelers in a racist manner, often for hours, because of their Arabic-sounding names or their plans to visit such places as Bethlehem, and asking them questions that have nothing to do with security, like the names of their grandparents, their religion, or their knowledge of the Arab language.

*What can be done before by those outside the country?*

Let all your friends and contacts know about this program and spread the word. Also, you could also write to the media. If you are coming, you should write a letter to your Foreign Ministry/State Department and/or other officials (higher and lower) to inform them and demand that they pressure Israel into allowing you and others to come. But those not coming could also write letters. Below is a draft of letter:

Dear ——,

I will be traveling to Israel/Palestine on April 15 with hundreds of Internationals from over 15 countries to participate in Peace building efforts with Palestinians in places like Bethlehem, Jerusalem, and the Jordan Valley. Israel had in the past spent hours interrogating internationals including citizens of our country and many times have denied them entry solely because they wish to work or visit with Palestinians in the occupied territories. Diplomatic protocols demand reciprocity and respect of our country’s passport. Thus we ask you to contact Israeli authorities and demand that our delegation be allowed through as Israeli citizens are allowed entry to our country. I ask that you inform us of the response you receive from Israeli authorities.  Your name and address

*What should local groups and activists do before the event?*

Local groups can either endorse or cosponsor the program or be listed as a partner group. All groups and individuals locally should recruit volunteers (we have a need for 100-200 volunteers). We have workshops for volunteers to train them. Volunteers can help recruit local support, help with logistics, and help with media work.

*What are guidelines/expectations from participants and volunteers?*

-Our call is unified for all Palestinians, not just the Palestinians in WBGS or Jerusalem only, but inside the Green Line and elsewhere, especially refugees.  There is a unity in the Palestinian cause which cannot be broken.

-The concern of the group is bigger than just the project and involves repeated efforts to bring Palestinians and Internationals together to end apartheid and ethnic cleansing.

-The planning committees reflect the Palestinian diversity whether political, social, or geographical variety.  Each of us agrees to not try to impose or influence the work in the direction of dominating it by one or more political, social, or geographic entity. Dozens of organizations, popular committees, and essentially all political factions support the action and we agree to work together on this. Thus, our activities are to carry Palestinian flags and no factional flags.

-No media messages or other communication will be permitted to promote one political, social, or geographic group. All media communication must be coordinated with the media committee.

-Mutual respect from all volunteers and activists are expected (both local and international).  We need also to respect cultural and religious norms and respect committee decisions.

-We adhere to non-violent approaches among ourselves and towards the Israeli apartheid soldiers.  We also adhere to all other rules and decisions by the organizers for the functions planned in the different locations.

-We understand that these functions are peaceful forms of resistance and other peace-building efforts. But we also understand that there is always risk of uncivilized response from Israeli soldiers and settlers.

*What is the Cost for attendees from abroad?*

Internationals are responsible for cost of airline tickets (should coordinate with local group coming as you may get even better discounts) plus cost of food, lodging, transportation, and other logistics locally (roughly 30 Euros/day). All logistics will be taken care of at our end including pick-up at the airport. Lodging will be at family homes or in hostels and NGOs and all arranged by local committees.

For more information, visit http://www.BienvenuePalestine.comand<http://www.bienvenuepalestine.comand/>  palestinejn.org  Email us at info@palestinejn.org

*Come join us, recruit others to join us, publicize widely, and reach out through social media. You can also help organize delegation*

Call for Participation http://www.palestinejn.org/en/component/content/article/1-latest-news/139-call-for-participation

Welcome to Palestine Invitation http://www.palestinejn.org/en/component/content/article/1-latest-news/136-welcome-to-palestine-2012

Welcome to Palestine 2012 FAQ http://www.palestinejn.org/en/component/content/article/1-latest-news/138-frequently-asked-questions-welcome-to-palestine-april-15th-21st-2012