Bethlehem and Jerusalem, July 7, 2011 – The Israeli authorities are escalating attacks on anyone they suspect of participating in the peaceful events of the ‘Welcome to Palestine’ campaign. Israeli authorities sent hundreds of names to airline companies telling them to deny travel to individuals on the list. Several people on the list who had booked flights were sent letters from airline companies cancelling their reservations ‘based on a request from the Israeli authorities.’ We call on all airline companies not to accept such provocative, blackmailing, and illegal actions by the Israeli government. Ominously, Israeli Prime minister has directed the interior security minister that the Israeli authorities must ‘act with determination’ towards those who do make it to Ben Gurion Airport.
The visitors coming from the US and Europe on Friday are committed to the principles of international and humanitarian law and believe strictly in nonviolence. They were invited by dozens of Palestinian civil society organizations and groups. They have stated that the only way to visit and work with Palestinians is by passing through Israeli border controls. They have declared their commitment to pass these border controls in an orderly, peaceful and fully transparent way.
Before stepping onto the airplanes, the visitors will have passed through meticulous security procedures at the various airports of origin and will pose no threat in any way. The propaganda efforts to paint human rights advocates as ‘hooligans’ and even ‘violent’ (an attempt to demonize and dehumanize them in order to justify violence against them) is simply not credible and indeed ridiculous. We are pleased that this episode further exposes Israeli policies towards anything or anyone relating to ‘Palestinians’ as dictatorial, racist, and criminal and not complying with basic elements of democracy or human rights.
Visitors traveling between countries have rights under international law and bilateral travel agreements. Our foreign visitors insist that they must be treated with respect in the same manner Israeli citizens receive when traveling to their countries. Those who had reservations cancelled will exercise their right of protest including bringing legal cases in their own countries. We will also bring legal cases in Israeli courts under our continued attempt to expose the racist policies of the Israeli government.
Several peaceful protests will be held at airports throughout Europe on the 8th of July and we urge all civilized people throughout the world to protest these undemocratic moves to silence free speech and legal travel. We ask the media to insist on access and fair reporting on Israeli tactics that are against basic human rights of international solidarity activists before, during and after they arrive at the Israeli airport. We demand Israel publishes all instructions given to their ‘border control officials’regarding visitors who intend to visit Palestinians.
The "Welcome to Palestine" campaign has been successful in exposing Israeli attempts to isolate and imprison Palestinians and prevent international visitors from coming to find out what is really happening on the ground.
Friday 8 July 2011 at 10 AM in Bethlehem Peace Center, located in Nativity Square, we will have a Press Conference to announce further steps we will take and to answer any questions.