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15 Apr, 2012

“Welcome to Palestine” Campaign: Letter to Global Church Leaders & News Update

Mazin Qumsiyeh, Ph.D.

Bethlehem, 15 April 2012 – The following is the full text of a letter from Welcome to Palestine Campaign to Global Church Leaders in the spirit of the Kairos document (http://kairospalestine.ps/).

As Palestinian Christians celebrate Easter, we Palestinians also welcome international visitors to Palestine as has always happened this season for hundreds of years.

This Easter, the Israeli government is determined to prevent over 1,500 visitors from arriving in the country simply because the visitors wanted to be honest about their destination and intention: to visit with Palestinians in the occupied territories. We ask Church leaders to issue public statements to demand free access to the occupied areas for all visitors, including this group and all future groups of pilgrims to the Holy Land.

Over 25 Palestinian organizations proudly launched the Welcome to Palestine 2012 campaign. 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” to various airlines of 342 participants from the ages of 9 to 83 to prevent them from boarding planes that sparked 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 and then imprisoned for several days as they insisted on their right to visit Palestinian associations and families.

As a result of ensuing 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 and 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 to the West Bank from 15 to 21 April 2012 refuse to lie and hide. They refuse to pretend Palestine and Palestinians do not exist. Israel spreads lies about the intention of the international visitors. 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. While Israel works to isolate us, we invite all to join us openly and proudly. With the help of the international community, the church 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.

We ask your church to speak out and support the Welcome to Palestine Campaign in the spirit of the call by Palestinian Christians called the Kairos document (http://kairospalestine.ps/).

Please send your letters of support to media@palestinejn.org

April 14 news update from the Welcome to Palestine 2012 campaign

– There will be a Press Conference in the Bethlehem Peace Center (Manger Square) Sunday, April 15, 2012 at 5 PM to where we will have representative of visitors who arrived and Palestinian families who will host visitors.*

– Several airlines notified passengers of cancellation of their flights upon orders from Israeli authorities (orders that include blatant and documentable lies and defamation). It is essential that those who had cancellations (whether with our campaign or has happened as “collateral damage”) challenge the airlines and their governments. Governments must pressure the State of Israel to allow visits to the occupied territories. The siege is clearly on the West Bank and not only on Gaza. Such sieges and blockade of admittance to occupied areas is a violation of international conventions especially the 4th Geneva Convention and likely amount to crimes against humanity.

– The French and Belgium groups called to action: All to gather at Charles de Gaulle Paris airport Terminal T1 starting at 5 AM, and at 7 AM in Zaventem, Brussels airport. We know it is early but do join other French people as they object to the racist apartheid policies that try to keep us apart. We understand there will also be convergence on airports in other European cities. We support these and any action of protest (we suggest also in front of Israeli embassies and consulates around the world).

– Striking Israeli airport workers decided to work to help “security” not just for the peaceful visitors expected to arrive on Sunday, but also to deport 700 Sudanese refugees. Racism thus unites the government and its workers.

– Israeli groups of peace activists are going to the airport carrying signs from Palestinian Children welcoming those who are arriving. Israeli police will likely try to stop them from exercising their right to free speech and to welcome visitors.

– The amount of coverage now is increasing exponentially in media outlets especially in Europe. We need activists in Canada, the US and elsewhere to demand their media carry the story. Over 100 media outlets already printed this Associated Press story but some added inappropriate pictures and titles. We need to push them since thousands of media outlets have access to AP stories, you can demand that they carry at least this AP story http://news.yahoo.com/pro-palestinian-activists-dismiss-israel-warning-142146097.html

– The following members of the British Parliament have expressed support for the Welcome to Palestine Campaign (and we need more MPs contacted): Hugh Bayley MP (York Inner), Mark Lazarowicz MP (Edinburgh North and Leith), Dave Anderson MP (Blaydon), Sandra Osborne MP (Ayr, Carrick and Cumnock).

– The Confederation de Syndicats National (Quebec, Canada) representing 300,000 members support the WTP 2012 campaign and denounced the denial of one of their members Julie Lachapelle her right to visit us in Palestine as part of the WTP campaign.

– Activists are writing letters to the editor about this, and all can write a letter to the editor of local and national newspapers thus exposing the unfair and illegal Israeli policies of siege and isolation. An example is here: http://m.dailycamera.com/camera/db_39430/contentdetail.htm?contentguid=PTTVrZzF

Videos Brief excerpt from the Press Conference with welcome from Bethlehem Mayor http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1i8jzmnKBhQ

Press update from the campaign http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6x-JbUXvaM4

The voices of 3 women travelling from Greater Manchester http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gb2l-utHEt8

Relevant stories


http://www.imemc.org/article/63303 http://www.haaretz.com/opinion/israel-is-paranoid-about-pro-palestinian-activists-1.423894

http://972mag.com/1500-activists-prepare-to-visit-palestine-via-ben-gurion-airport/41674/ (Mya Guarnieri will be on one of the flights)


http://publish.indymedia.org/en/2012/04/956087.shtml http://pulsemedia.org/2012/04/13/welcome-to-israel-2012/

Welcome to Palestine 2012 Campaign websites