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14 Apr, 2012

“Welcome to Palestine” Campaign Gains Traction; Australia Blasts Settlement Expansion


JERUSALEM, April 12, 2012 (WAFA) – An Israeli peace group Thursday called on the Israeli government not to stop international activists who plan to fly into Tel Aviv airport next week to demonstrate their support for the Palestinians.

Under the slogan, “Welcome to Palestine,” some 1000 activists are planning to fly into Israel starting Sunday in order to demonstrate their support for the Palestinian people and to show that Israel does not allow free access and movement for the Palestinian people under its occupation.

Gush Shalom, the Israeli peace bloc, called in a letter to Israeli Minister of Public Security Yitzhak Aharonovitch to cancel plans for flooding Tel Aviv airport with a massive police force in preparation for the arrival of the international activists.

“More than a 1000 international activists are due to arrive, among them aged persons, parents with their children and handicapped people in wheelchairs. They have no intention of carrying out any provocation, and there is no need to mobilize massive police forces. All that is needed is to say the word ‘welcome’ and perhaps also give a flower,” said the group.

“It is sad to note, Mr. Minister, that you – as well as the commanders of the police force for which you bear responsibility – have learned nothing from the events of the previous fly-in,” said the letter.

Gush Shalom insisted that the group, which is going to declare openly and explicitly that they are coming to visit the West Bank at the invitation of various Palestinian civil society organizations and to participate in laying the foundations of a new elementary school in Bethlehem, to plant fruit trees, rehabilitate wells at villages in the area, and inaugurate a museum, have “no intention of causing any incident at the airport.”

It said “the mighty police mobilization is completely unnecessary and a total waste of the taxpayers’ money,” adding that “all that is needed is instruct the passport control officials to answer each and every one of the visitors with the word ‘Welcome.’ At a small fraction of the cost of the planned police operation, it would be possible to give each of the visitors a pretty flower on behalf of the State of Israel.”

Australia Condemns Israeli Decision to Expand Settlements

CANBERRA, April 11, 2012 (WAFA) – The Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs Bob Carr Wednesday condemned an Israeli decision to expand settlements in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, according to a statement issued by the ministry. He said the Israeli decision to expand settlements will further complicate the peace process.

Carr urged the Israeli government to uphold its obligations stated in the Quartet’s Road Map that outlines a peaceful settlement for the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. He said unilateral Israeli steps will not help bring the two parties back to the negotiating table, which he says forms the only solution to establish two states, one Palestinian and the other Israeli.

Bethlehem, 13 April 2012 – Abbreviated News Roundup and Call to Action from the Welcome to Palestine 2012 Campaign — Issued by Mazin Qumsiyeh, Ph.D.

– Tens of thousands of media stories appeared just in the last 48 hours (ranging from social media to mainstream media). All major Israeli media covered the campaign. Some media outlets doing several stories (almost on a daily basis).

– Our websites in different countries including support websites recorded significant increase in hits with a logarithmic growth after our phenomenally successful press conference last Tuesday (video excerpt here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1i8jzmnKBhQ). We anticipate this to increase even more in time especially over the weekend (Friday to Saturday when most of our visitors will arrive). One Zionist hooligan’s attempt to shut down one of our many websites briefly was dealt with.

– French and Belgian citizens including some politicians and many in the media are asking why those governments are not standing with their citizens but instead doing the unusual thing of warning their own citizens from going to visit a people under occupation. The people of France, Belgium and other countries are very upset but are not deterred. And even more who have not booked tickets to come this time already decided to join our next campaign.

– Serge Hustache, Belgian Parliament Deputy from Hainaut wrote a letter to Yitzhak Aharonovitch, Israeli minister of “security”, to object to Aharonovitch’s calling visitors “provocateurs”.

– In a similar vein, the British government seems complicit in the siege of the West Bank and have advised their citizens to be aware that they cannot come to their defense if deported (but this can and should be challenged in British courts). In Scotland, there is a motion to the Scottish Parliament (Motion S4M-02477) supported by many MPs in support of our campaign.

– Israeli media and activists are inquiring vociferously about the “legality” (with Israeli apartheid laws the quotes are deserved) to deny entry to the country by individuals who broke no Israeli law and wish merely to declare themselves coming to visit with Palestinians (after all, 5.5 million Palestinians are under direct Israeli control).

– The Mayor of Bethlehem City and the Governor of Bethlehem District express support for the Welcome to Palestine 2012 campaign. We also received support from politicians and religious leaders around the world.

– Lufthansa is one airline that acceded to an Israeli demand and actually went beyond that canceling reservations on its flight for Sunday. Some of those whose reservations were canceled in Germany and France were not even associated with the Welcome to Palestine Campaign. Is this “collateral damage”?

– Dozens of Israeli supporters are working on the media issues inside 1948 areas and are mobilizing to support and welcome the visitors in the airport. Several of those people were questioned by Israeli police or other security agents but they are not deterred and their numbers are growing. Thanks to them, there is widespread awareness of Israeli repressive and hysterical tactics. And more Israelis are jumping on board to help.

* Frequently asked questions updated including what you can do in your country to support this campaign (we need people to read and send suggestions for updates): http://www.palestinejn.org/en/section-blog.

* We need your support to pressure your government and influence your media to insist on the freedom to visit Palestine and show solidarity with an occupied people under siege. Even prisoners have a right to a visit. Relevant videos http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1i8jzmnKBhQ

– Brief excerpt from the Press Conference http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gb2l-utHEt8

– The voices of 3 women travelling from Greater Manchester travelling to Tel Aviv as part of the Welcome to Palestine global Direct Action event

– http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ONqw8zQCMm8 (Press TV report)

Welcome to Palestine 2012 Campaign websites