Press Release #1: Hundreds of Internationals and Hundreds of Palestinians Gear-up for July 8-16 activities
Bethlehem (3 July 2011)- Some 40 Palestinian civil society organizations, popular resistance committees, and political factions announce the launching of the “Welcome to Palestine” initiative July 8-16 where hundreds of Internationals will work with hundreds of Palestinians for Peace. The hundreds of men, women, and children will arrive July 8 at the Lod (Ben Gurion) Airport. The international community must recognize the basic human right to receive visitors from abroad and support the right of their own citizens to travel to Palestine without harassment. Where Israel works to isolate us, we invite all to join with us openly and proudly. We do not accept the attempts to keep us apart or to force us to speak less than with full honesty.
This July initiative comes in a planned series of events and follows similar events carried out in December under the slogan of "ending apartheid and ethnic cleansing." The week of activities starts on July 9 because that is the anniversary of the International Court of Justice ruling about the illegality of the Settlements and the apartheid wall in the occupied Palestinian Territories and the anniversary of the Palestinian Civil Society Call to Action: July 9 Ramallah area, July 10 Bethlehem area, July 11 North, July 12 Hebron and Jordan Valley, July 13 Neqab, July 14-15 Jerusalem.
The July “Welcome to Palestine” initiative will take participants (Palestinians and Internationals) to different parts of Palestine from the north to the Negev and highlight the power of nonviolence and peace building efforts. Visitors will be accommodated locally and will enjoy Palestinian hospitality and a program of networking, fellowship, and volunteer peace work in Palestinian towns and villages together with hundreds of local activists.
The full program of activities is available for credentialed media outlets.
Video of Press conference Explaining the Action
Videos of Previous actions
Report By Elsa Rassbach
Mazin Qumsiyeh of Bethlehem believes this will be a "summer of change." One year after the Israeli attack on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla, during which the Israeli military killed nine Turkish passengers, Palestinian, Israeli, American and German activists met in Berlin: the focus for this coming summer is not only the Israeli blockade against Gaza, but also the one around the West Bank.
On July 8th hundreds of international activists plan to arrive at Ben Gurion airport in Tel Aviv to accept the invitation of 30 Palestinian civil-society organizations to participate in the initiative "Welcome to Palestine."
Delegations from France, Great Britain, Belgium, Sweden, Germany, USA, Japan and several African countries are expected. "For our guests," says Professor Mazin Qumsiyeh, one of the Palestinian coordinators, "we are planning trips to the Jordan Valley, the Negev Desert and Hebron. They will take part in cultural activities and in peaceful protests against the Israeli appropriation of Palestinian land with the help of the Apartheid Wall."
Upon arriving in Israel, the foreign guests will make no secret of their intent to go to the Occupied Territories. "And why should they?" asks Qumsiyeh, who studied in the US and taught there at Yale University. " When an Israeli arrives at the airport in Berlin, no one dictates where he or she may travel."
Prof. Fanny-Michaela Reisen, President of the International League for Human Rights, adds: "We observe with great concern that Palestinians from the West Bank are often not allowed to leave the country, and we know many Palestinians in Germany, who are studying here or who have married here, who are denied the right to return to Palestine. If they stay away a long time, they may lose their property. These are all violations of international human rights law." Gisela Siebourg, the coordinator of the German section of "Free Gaza," which this year is sending together with other initiatives an even larger flotilla to Gaza than last year, emphasizes the mutual determination to break the blockade of the Gaza strip and also of the West Bank, even though the Israeli authorities are already threatening the new fleet of ships.
Those traveling via Tel Aviv on July 8th are also preparing themselves: just in case there may be hindrances, Israeli attorneys and supporters of "Welcome to Palestine" will be lending their support. Jewish Voices for a Just Peace in the Middle East is also supporting the initiative. "Politicians -- whether Hosni Mubarak or Netanyahu or Obama -- do not change their behavior unless we the people change ourselves and decide to take matters into our own hands," says Qumsiyeh, who was also in Sweden this past weekend to build support for this action.