PNN – Palestine News Network – 08.07.11 – 17:44
PNN Exclusive / By Ghassan Bannoura – Hundreds of participants from the Welcome to Palestine Campaign started to arrive at Tel Aviv international airport on Friday, July 8. In Europe, French activists were denied from boarding their planes after the Israeli interior ministry handed out black lists to airlines of the people not allowed to travel to Israel.
In a video on YouTube from Paris international airport one of the participants said that “The airline has documents from the Israeli interior ministry saying I am not allowed into the country. “
Another activist said that her name was black listed as well “I had all the required flight documents and my passport is good too and ready for travel, however the Israeli government decided we are not allowed into the country.”
Meanwhile a third activist was forced to leave the plane as her name was also among those denied entry into Israel “The blockade has extended to all of Europe, I came and presented my documents and right away I was told to leave the plane along with some other people who had their names on a list.”
At the Tel Aviv international airport things were not much different. Israeli security was heavily deployed in the airport. When some participants of the campaign arrived at the airport, where some managed to go through, many were detained and sent back. Israeli peace activists welcoming participants at the airport were arrested and attacked by both security forces and Israeli civilians.
Israeli sources announced that 200 participants of the Welcome to Palestine Campaign have in fact been arrested.
Reports from other airports indicate that some activists managed to fly. Dr. Mazim Qumsiyeh, spokesperson for the Welcome to Palestine campaign, said France had stopped all of the activists who had planned to travel on French flights into Ben Gurion. Belgium had allowed all the activists to board their flights, he said. Britain had allowed all passengers, after thorough investigation of each one, to board their planes except one, Mick Napier, said Qumsiyeh. Napier is the secretary-general of the Palestinian Scottish Friendship Association.
The Welcome to Palestine campaign was launched by 40 Palestinian NGOs who invited 600 Europeans and Americans, along with their families, to come to Palestine and meet local families as well as take part in volunteer, cultural and development programs.
The idea for the Welcome to Palestine campaign came after Israeli attempts to illegalize travel to Palestinian areas by implementing policies of deporting, denying entry and restricting access to foreigners who say they are coming to visit Palestinians. Participants of the campaign will simply state that they are going to visit Palestinians and, according to organizers, they will not use violence whatsoever.