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PNN – Palestine News Network – 08.07.11 – 20:51
Bethlehem – JI / PNN – Around 30 activists gathered tonight in Manger Square to celebrate the commencement of the Welcome to Palestine campaign and to welcome its participants.
To begin the demonstration, one of the organizers, Dr. Mazin Qumsiyeh gave an update on the current status of the campaign. He said that many of the participants have been detained, and that Israeli security forces have arrested a number of Israelis who went to the airport in support of the campaign.
Following Qumsiyeh’s speech, organizer Sami Awad explained that the campaign’s “purpose is to expose the injustice of the occupation.”
“Internationals who come to Palestine have to lie … to say they’re tourists. They are peace activists, and everybody has the right … to come into Palestine. Israel cannot hide behind this charade of saying they are democratic”, Awad said.
Awad went on to welcome the two Welcome to Palestine participants present in Manger Square, who had arrived from France in the morning, and hoped that they would join in the week’s activities that the organizers have planned.
The two participants, Pascal and Annie, told PNN that they have been conscious of the problems in Palestine for a long time, and that this was their first visit. On what they told the Israeli security upon entry, they said that they were tourists and did not mention Palestine for fear of deportation.
According to reports, Israel has deported 4 campaign participants, and detaind 65 more.
Another organizer present at Manger Square told PNN that some of the detained plan to legally challenge their deportation.
The Welcome to Palestine campaign staged a similar demonstration tonight in Ramallah’s Manara Square.