PRESS RELEASE | ‘Welcome to Palestine’ campaign responds to Israel’s denial of entrance to international visitors who support human rights

PRESS RELEASE

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.

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.

Twitter: #PalSpring
Facebook: Welcome to Palestine

Contact information:

Bethlehem: Fadi Kattan, press.welcometopalestine2@gmail.com   +970 (0) 595 754 100 or Skype welcome.palestine
Jerusalem: Nikki or Laura, sergioyahni@gmail.com , +972 2 624 1159 or +972 2 624 1424
Berlin: Sophia Deeg, sophia_deeg@yahoo.de, +49(0) 30 88 007761, +49 (0) 179987841413:00  Press briefing; beginning 13:30 news center, including (if possible) direct contact with the travelers as they land at Ben Gurion airport.  Filmbühne am Steinplatz, Hardenbergstr. 12, Berlin Charlottenburg. 
Paris:  Nicolas Shahshahani, bienvenuepalestine@orange.fr +33 (0)1 42 94 39 94 and +33 (0) 6 73 38 24 84.The press office will answer questions from the media around the clock. 
UK: Sofiah Macleod, july8@scottishpsc.org.uk+44 (0)131 620 0052 or + 44 (0) 7401631658, Skype: scottishpsc.

USA/Germany: Elsa Rassbach, elsarassbach@gmail.com+49 (0) 30 326 01540+49 (0) 170 738 1450, Skype: elsarassbach

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