The Mayor of Bethlehem, Dr Victor Batarseh, launched the Welcome to Palestine 2012 initiative on Tuesday 10 April 2012. He is seen speaking here at the launch:
Dr Vic Batarseh: “We would like to welcome and appreciate the presence of 1200 ambassadors for justice and peace into our land. Your mission and vision have uplifted our spirit for achieving restorative justice. It makes us feel that we are not left alone during these difficult circumstances, overshadowing our holy town and region.
A friend in need is a friend in deed. Now this the wall of separation between the people will be broken , not physically, but psychologically. And our goal is to build bridges of peace, love and understanding amongst the people . Not walls of separation and hatred between the people.
Bethlehem is an open city of peace. It represents the values of openness and democracy, friendship and love and should be always like this. Freedom and justice for all! Long live the struggle for humanity!”
Welcome to Palestine 15 April-21 2012
Welcome to Palestine, Media Release, 12 April 2012
Israeli police and secret service prepare to stop British travellers invited to Occupied Palestine
On Sunday 15th April British nationals will be among almost 1,300 internationals flying into Tel Aviv airport as part of Welcome to Palestine 2012. Organisers explain that participants of ‘Welcome to Palestine’ will openly declare at Israeli passport control that their destination is Bethlehem, that they have no choice but to transit Tel Aviv Airport to reach the occupied West Bank and that they intend to pass though the airport as unobtrusively as possible. Organisers say they will contribute to the construction of an international school in Bethlehem, a museum about the history of Palestinian refugees, and take part in “political discussions with Palestinian groups on how to end Israel’s illegal occupation and build for the forthcoming World Social Forum-Free Palestine in Brazil in October”.
Welcome to Palestine 2012 is endorsed by Archbishop Desmond Tutu and is a response to an invitation from over 25 Palestinian organisations including the Right to Enter Campaign. The Mayor of Bethlehem, Dr Victor Batarseh, has welcomed participants and declared the support of the Bethlehem Municipality. UK Palestinian Ambassador Manuel Hassassian has urged Members of Parliament to “support the right of the people of the occupied Palestinian Territories to receive visitors who present themselves peacefully at Tel Aviv Airport and declare their wish to proceed to Palestine”.
Israel government Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch has called the visit as a “provocation” and said authorities will deploy hundreds of police at Tel Aviv airport on Sunday. Israeli secret service have been interrogating Israeli activists who are supportive of the ‘Welcome to Palestine’ initiative, in a move declared illegal by lawyer Gaby Lasky who said that “the summons is illegal and outside the Shin Bet’s authority. Under the guise of a ‘friendly conversation’ the Shin Bet is trying to deter people from taking part in legal activity with Palestinians.” The Israeli government has also warned airlines that they must prevent boarding to a ‘blacklist’ of passengers.
One of the organisers of the UK delegation responding to the allegations of criminality, said “it has always been Zionist policy to isolate the Palestinian people from international links while the process of dispossession is carried out. Uttering the word ‘Palestine’ in answer to official questions at Tel Aviv Airport passport control will be treated as a crime on Sunday”.
British participants will depart from different parts of the UK on Sunday.
1. Welcome to Palestine 2012
Contact details for updates on UK and US participants:
00 44 (0) 131 620 0052
00 44 (0) 7931200361
Youtube Channel: http://www.youtube.com/user/WelcometoPalestine
2. Profiles and updates on UK & US participants will be available here on Sunday 15 April: www.welcometopalstine.info
3. Source of quote: “not to demonstrate at ‘Ben Gurion’ airport but to visit the West Bank, where we are expected to launch the construction of an international school, a museum about the history of Palestinian refugees, repairing wells damaged by settlers, and land reclamation”
4. Appeal from the Palestinian Ambassador to Members of Parliament
5. Call for participation
6. Archbishop Tutu and others endorse Welcome to Palestine:
7. World Social Forum: Free Palestine invitation to Welcome to Palestine participants
8. The Mayor of Bethlehem sends message of support
9. Israeli government response:
– Israel security forces gear up to deflect pro-Palestinian ‘fly-in’ protest, http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/israel-security-forces-gear-up-to-deflect-pro-palestinian-fly-in-protest-1.423446
– Hundreds of police to await ‘fly-in’ activists at terminal, http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/hundreds-of-police-to-await-fly-in-activists-at-terminal-1.423877
– Shin Bet questions Israeli activists linked to upcoming ‘fly-in’ protest, http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/shin-bet-questions-israeli-activists-linked-to-upcoming-fly-in-protest-1.423871
– Israel warns airlines, deploys forces ahead of Sunday ‘Flytilla’ protest, http://www.timesofisrael.com/police-prepare-for-welcome-to-palestine-flying-protest-by-warning-airlines-and-deploying-forces/
Welcome to Palestine Campaign April 15th-21st 2012
Palestinian civil society organizations and peace and human rights defenders and activists call on the international community to join us on April 15th -21st for peace building in Palestine and to challenge the Israeli siege of the occupied territories. Over 1500 people of conscience from over 15 countries are scheduled to arrive for this year’s WTP campaign.
The first Welcome to Palestine (WTP) Campaign in December 2010 brought 100 individuals. The second WTP 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 not only fully refunded the tickets, but also agreed not to repeat the incident. 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. Lastly, despite these obstacles, many activists were in the end able to join the activities carried out throughout the occupied areas throughout the week of July 9th, 2011. The international community recognizes the basic human right of Palestinians to receive visitors from abroad and support the right of their own citizens to travel to Palestine without harassment (see http://www.righttoenter.ps/ ).We pledged that where Israel works to isolate us, we invite all to join us openly and proudly. We reject all attempts to isolate and silence us. We are thus having larger programs to challenge the siege.
With the help of the international community, we will achieve our goal of peace and freedom and thus restore the values and principles that we share as human beings. We believe in global popular resistance as a method to achieve implementation of International Law and Human Rights, especially where governments fail to act. We believe that every single one of us is a change maker, and nobody has the right to deny access to suffering populations. We call on more internationals to join the hundreds who already booked their tickets and come help us begin to build a school, work with farmers, and join the struggle to bring peace with justice.
Who is traveling to Palestine the week of April 15th, 2012?
Fifteen hundred to twenty-five hundred human rights activists between the ages of 9 and 90 years old from over 15 countries.
Who invited them?
Palestinian civil society organizations, peace and human rights defenders, as well as activists on the ground made the call. They include the following (list in formation):
Al-Awda Center – Beit Sahour, Al-Rowwad Cultural and Theatre Training Centre, www.alrowwad-acts.ps
The Alternative Information Center – AIC – www.alternativenews.org
Bil’in Popular Resistance Committee www.bilin-village.org
Friends of Freedom and Justice, Bil’in www.bilin-ffj.org
Handala Center – www.handalla-center.org
Holy Land Trust: www.holylandtrust.org
International Solidarity Movement: www.palsolidarity.org
Les Enfants, le Jeu et l’Education www.ejepal.org
Occupied Palestine and Golan Heights Advocacy Initiative
Palestinian Centre for Rapprochement between People www.PCR.PS
Palestinian Conflict Resolution Center (Wi’am) www.alaslah.org/
Palestine Justice Network www.palestinejn.org
Palestine Solidarity Project www.palestinesolidarityproject.org
Popular Committees in different villages and towns
Siraj Center for Holy Land Studies, www.sirajcenter.org
Youth Against Settlements (Hebron)
The Right to Enter Campaign www.righttoenter.ps
“We, the undersigned, endorse the call from the Welcome to Palestine 2012 Initiative for supporters of Palestinian human and national rights around the world to openly visit Palestine during Easter 2012. “There is no way into Palestine other than through Israeli control points. Israel has turned Palestine into a giant prison, but prisoners have a right to receive visitors. “Welcome to Palestine 2012 will again challenge Israel’s policy of isolating the West Bank while the settler paramilitaries and army commit brutal crimes against a virtually defenceless Palestinian civilian population.??”We call on governments to support the right of Palestinians to receive visitors and the right of their own citizens to visit Palestine openly. “The participants in Welcome to Palestine 2012 ask to be allowed to pass through Tel Aviv airport without hindrance and to proceed to the West Bank to take part in a project there for children to benefit from the right to education.”
Sam Bahour, Tony Benn, Noam Chomsky, Jonathan Cook, Hedy Epstein, Ambassador Manuel Hassassian, Ronnie Kasrils, Nurit Peled, John Pilger, Nawal Al Sadaawi, Vauro Senesi, Desmond Tutu
Welcome to Palestine endorsements
Background to flytilla – Welcome to Palestine