Bethlehem and Jerusalem, July 13, 2011. Court dates have been set for noon today and tomorrow at 9 am for the court challenges of “Welcome to Palestine” participants against the deportation orders of the Israeli government that they and their attorneys consider illegal. The hearings will take place at the Central District Courthouse in Petah Tikva.
The hearing at noon today concerns two Australians who flew from Athens to Ben Gurion airport yesterday to join the “Welcome to Palestine” initiative: Sylvia Hale, a retired member of the NSW Parliament and Green Party Member, and Vivienne Porzsolt, a member of Jews against the Occupation, both 69 years old had, been aboard the Freedom Flotilla II Free Gaza ship, the “MV Tahrir,” which the Greek government prevented from sailing to Gaza. Other members of Flotilla II have decided to come visit Palestine and contacted the “Welcome to Palestine” campaign, including the US activist Kathy Kelly. “We are now inundated with requests to visit Palestine which is the opposite of what the Israeli authorities had tried to do by their brutal denial of travel to a few hundred activists” said Mazin Qumsiyeh, one of the organizers and the campaign’s local media spokesperson.
Tomorrow at 9 am Angelica Seyfrid of Berlin, Germany, will challenge deportation orders. Ms. Seyfrid, an artist and translator, worked for many weeks to raise money for travel costs so that unemployed persons and students in Germany could join “Welcome to Palestine.” On July 8th, Ms. Seyfrid flew from Berlin to Tel Aviv with members of the German ,Austrian, French and Belgian delegations of “Welcome to Palestine.” All were immediately detained upon arrival to Ben Gurion airport and most were deported without opportunity of legal counsel. Members of the German and Austrian delegation were deported on Sunday, July 10th via Lufthansa Airlines, and on Monday, July 11th, via Australian Airlines respectively. According to the German Embassy in Tel Aviv, the Israeli authorities denied access to attorneys seeking to represent the incarcerated Germans.
“Israel denied the entry of Noam Chomsky because he wanted to have a talk with students from Nablus,” said Attorney Omer Shatz. “Israel denied the entry of Ivan Prado the famous clown just because he wished to make Ramahalla’s kids happy. Israel denied entry to anyone who wants to visit Palestine. Such a regime that doesn’t let people to visit millions of Palestinians living under oppressing military occupation for 44 years now.”
“Our hearts go out to Angelica, and we fully support her courageous refusal to accept the illegal Israeli deportation orders,” said Elsa Rassbach, a US citizen living in Berlin and member of CODEPINK and the German section of the War Resistors International, who helped organize the German delegation and is coordinating the international media for the initiative from Berlin. Together with members of the French and UK delegations to “Welcome to Palestine,” Ms. Rassbach visited Palestine during an earlier campaign of support during Christmas last year. However, the French activist, Olivia Zémor, was denied entry and deported during the same time.
While Israel succeeded in preventing hundreds of people from entering Palestine, many others did enter to join this week’s program of activities. Israeli forces have incarcerated at least two supporters, including a young man from Belgium who participated in yesterday’s peaceful attempt to enter the Palestinian villages of Beit Ommar (now off-limits due to Israeli colonial activities). Israelis also decided to join the activities and several were also arrested.
“The local organizers of the ‘Welcome to Palestine’ campaign, while sad about the continuing attempts at isolation from the international community, are pleased that this episode of brutal Israeli assault removes one of the last illusions about ‘Israeli Democracy’,” said Dr. Qumsiyeh.
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