Palestinians in the "Welcome to Palestine" coalition condemn in the strongest possible terms the attack by Israeli forces on dozens of detained human rights activists. One of those detained reported (before his phone was apparently removed) how 32 people were held together in one room and then attacked, forcefully handcuffed and dragged into separate transfer vehicles. They were then forcefully transferred to the Ramle detention facility by the forces of the apartheid regime. Lawyers have been trying to reach the Ministry of Interior to gain access to the abductees and to assure that they receive their right to legal representation, to visits from their country consular staff, and to call their families. Israeli authorities said they are holding 85 people pending deportation "on the next available flight". We know of activists held who come from Britain, Belgium, France, Germany, Spain, Holland, and Ireland. Multiple flights were also delayed before departure (apparently to give Israel more time). Activists held demonstrations at several airports in Europe.
Supporters who tried to welcome our visitors were stopped and denied entrance to the airport. Each airport visitor was asked to show either that he/she is traveling or that they are there to meet a specific person (names were checked against arriving flight passenger lists). The few who did manage to get in were immediately attacked even as they peacefully tried to wait for arriving guests. Six were arrested for exercising their right to free speech.
We held a press conference Friday morning to explain our invitation, our campaign, and the week program. We decried the compliance of some airlines in human rights violations (Air France, Alitalia, Austrian Airlines, Lufthansa, Malev, and Easy Jet). It amounts to the export and outsourcing of policies of occupation and human rights violations from Israel to other countries. Friday weekly demonstrations in the West Bank raised the banner of human solidarity and decried the Israeli attacks. We decried the defamatory statements about our visitors that paved the grounds for violating their rights. A demonstration was also held Friday afternoon in front of the Israeli Ministry of Interior.
We announced our program for the week which commenced successfully with vigils in solidarity with those detained at 6 PM on Friday in the Manara square in Ramallah and the Nativity Square in Bethlehem. Many internationals were there including four who came for our July 8-16 program despite Israel’s draconian measures to stop this. Their presence at these peaceful events showed the lie told by Israeli authorities that these are "hooligans" and "trouble makers" whose mere entrance to Palestine was presented to the Israeli public as an existential threat. The real hooligans and trouble-makers turned out to be Israeli government officials and security personnel.
Israeli Occupation forces are now searching for Internationals crossing the (illegal) checkpoints to the South of Ramallah. But our program continues with two concurrent events scheduled in the Ramallah governorate 9 July 2011 (anniversary of the World Court ruling on the illegality of the apartheid wall and colonial settlements): 11 AM gathering in Bilin for an event elsewhere and then ending in Qalandia at 3 PM and a noon function at Qalandia. Details of other functions are available upon request.
We urge all people to write to the media, to their governments, and to all fellow human beings to say that "enough is enough": Israel must be forced to respect basic human rights, allow free travel and most of all end apartheid and colonization. As a matter of urgency, Western governments must insist that Israeli authorities release those they kidnapped, afford them all protections due them, and punish officials who mistreated our guests.
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