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9 Apr, 2012

Challenging the Israeli Siege: Easter and the “Welcome to Palestine” Campaign

Mazin Qumsiyeh, Ph.D.

Easter is here with its past memories, present joys, and future hopes. Church bells in Bethlehem remind us of ancient traditions. The roar of Israeli jets overhead (on another bombing mission to Gaza?) remind us of the present. Stories of freedom and resurrection, past and future, mix as I see a Palestinian Christian child offering his colored egg to a Muslim friend. They remind us of the future. … more here

Israelis Again Seeking to Block Welcome to Palestine Campaigners

Bethlehem, Easter 2012 (Welcome to Palestine Campaign Media Release) — Over 25 Palestinian organizations proudly announce the impending arrival of hundreds of visitors for the Welcome to Palestine 2012 campaign. A press conference is to be held to detail the campaign’s program and goals on Tuesday April 10th at 5 PM in the Bethlehem Peace Center.

We proceeded with our preparations despite the fact that several volunteers were harassed by Israeli occupation authorities. In one case, a peace activist home was raided at 2 AM by occupation forces who took his computer and his cell phone. Other peace activists were delayed or questioned for hours as they exited or entered the country.

The dozens of volunteers working with us were only encouraged because with these actions Israel itself shed a light on its own policies of siege and isolation of the West Bank. More volunteers are joining every day to ensure a smooth program for our visitors which includes starting to build a new school, getting to know Palestinians, informative tours, and cultural exchanges.

The last campaign 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 days 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 fully refunded the tickets and airline unions joined us in pressing for freedom of travel. 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.

What the Israeli government apparently cannot stand in this initiative is that the women and men coming from 15 to 21 April in the West Bank refuse to lie and hide. They refuse to pretend Palestine and Palestinians do not exist. Israel calls that “delegitimization” and spreads lies about the intention of the international visits. We thank these visitors for working for peace and humanity with honesty and dignity.

The international community recognizes the basic human right of Palestinians to receive visitors from abroad and supports the right of their own citizens to travel to Palestine without harassment. We reject all attempts to isolate and silence us. Where Israel works to isolate us, we invite all to join us openly and proudly. We are thus having larger programs to challenge the siege.

With the help of the international community and local volunteers, we will achieve our goal of peace and freedom and thus restore the values and principles that we share as human beings.






Further reading:

UNHRC votes 36-1 to probe Israeli Settlements. China & Russia FOR, United States AGAINST

(Reuters) – The United Nations launched an international investigation into Israeli settlements in the Palestinian territories, with the United States isolated in voting against the initiative brought by the Palestinian Authority. Read more

UN Panel uses the strongest language to date to highlight Israeli racism and system of discrimination

United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD), was “appalled” by Israel’s racial segregation policies and that an advanced version of an upcoming CERD report indicates that racial prejudice can be found in almost every facet of Israeli life. Read more

More Truths about the real situation in Palestine and Israeli Lies

Defense of Children International-Palestine branch: Bound, Blindfolded and Convicted: Children held in military detention