January 28, 2012 by Ayman Qwaider
In 1947-48, the Palestinian people were subjected to an ethnic cleansing campaign at the hands of the Zionist forces. The number of Palestinians that experienced expulsion anduprooting during this period of time is estimated to be approximately 775,000. Over the past 64 years, while the Zionist policy of population transfer has continued at a slower and retracted pace, it still remains an extension of the pogroms that began in 1947. Currently, the Palestinians diaspora totals approximately five million. While many Palestinians live in cities across the world, including in North America, South America and Europe, there still remains millions of Palestinians living in abject poverty and horrible conditions in refugee camps across bordering countries of their native land. Many Palestinians that were uprooted in both 1948 and 1967 that remain within the borders of native Palestine, reside in abject refugee camps. Not only do the Palestinians suffer persecution, expulsion, settlements, land dispossession, collective punishment and massacres under an apartheid system, they are even denied the right to receive visitors into the Occupied Territories. Israel controls the land, the sea, the air, the water resources and even the money that flows in and out of her banking and monetary system. Israel can stop payments to the Palestinian Authority on a seconds notice.
For the past 64 years, the United Nations universal Declaration of Human Rights hasn’t been applied nor has it been respected by the Israeli occupation or international community, thanks to the US Vetos in the UN Security Council that has blocked the implementation of resolution against Israel. As a result, the Declaration’s articles, starting with the Right to Life, the Right to Self-determination, the Right to Education, and the Right to freedom of Movement, have been ignored. The majority of the other rights are violated on a daily basis, and the frequency of these violations are increasing by the day. Israel consistently seeks to prevent activists from accessing the Occupied Palestinian Territories, which allows and eases the increase of settlement activities which deprive the Palestinians from the most fundamental rights of a decent life. Today, there is an opportunity to change this reality through solidarity campaigns with the oppressed people of Palestine in order to reach out towards human consciousness. The “Welcome to Palestine” campaign is an efficient way to raise awareness of the conditions of Apartheid and dispossession inside Palestine.
We need to address our responsibility as free citizens, belonging to a free human community, with regards to a society in which all the values and rights we take for granted are violated day after day; we need to ask ourselves what our role is in this process. During the past six decades and within the framework of an international conspiracy, while there has been a lot of vocal international support and solidarity for Palestine, there has been no action whatsoever from the international community to stop the Israeli violations and to implement international law. The Palestinian local population is the victim of this great tragedy and is leading a battle to survive on its native land where it has existed for centuries. There is no exaggeration in comparing the Palestinian cause to the Native American Indian population, which has undergone a process of ethnic cleansing that resulted in its total annihilation. The policies carried out by Israel in Palestine have similar objectives.
Facing the complicit silence of several governments, particularly the US State Department and UN delegation which is complicit in the ethnic cleansing policy against the Palestinian people in Jerusalem and in the rest of the Occupied Palestinian Territories; the civil society, free and revolutionary, has the right to resist Israel’s illegal and inhuman policies, and to demand their rights. I insist on the term “revolutionary” when discussing the role of the civil society because I firmly believe in its ability to participate in and lead a campaign for redress.
In response to the appeal of a great range of Palestinian civil society organizations to carry on the initiative of changing this bitter reality for Palestinians, the next “Welcome to Palestine” campaign, taking place on 15th April, 2012 has declared the following:
The Palestinian people must have the right to travel and move freely within Palestine, as well as outside the Palestinian borders, in accordance with the most elementary and internationally recognized human rights. Similarly, the Palestinian people should have the right to welcome visitors coming from the entire world without having to go through humiliating and intimidating investigations inside Ben Gurion airport in Tel Aviv. It is simply unfair and inhuman to isolate the West Bank and Jerusalem from its Arabic and international context because of Israel’s cruel policy and to block all paths allowing any human being to meet his Palestinian friends and colleagues.
It is completely unacceptable to travel through Palestine in an atmosphere of fear and confusion and to have to give the authorities fake stories and fantasies about girlfriends and boyfriends in Tel Aviv, or dreams of visiting the bastion of “light and democracy in the darkness of Arabia”, which adds further insult to injury in terms of the reality on the ground in Palestine. In other words, having to lie and pander each time one wishes to visit his Palestinian friends, and having to pretend to be a friend of an Apartheid regime is nothing short of disgraceful.
Secondly, the Palestinian peoples’ plight requires and deserves Arab and international solidarity because it is a humanitarian issue. This solidarity, which includes moral and humanitarian principled values, can help to contribute to change the life of Palestinians, which is nothing short of injustice, tyranny and daily suffering. The “Welcome to Palestine” campaign is an initiative which aims to shed light on the fundamental question that shall be raised regarding the oppressed people in the Palestinian territories, especially in the West Bank and Jerusalem: The freedom of movement without the Israeli occupation’s soldiers’ constant harassment and abuse. The campaign draws attention to West Bank Palestinians’ rights to welcome visitors from all over the territories and all over the world; just like an Israeli can welcome any Israeli or Jewish visitor that he wishes.
Finally, the acceleration of dispossession and ethnic cleansing, that has come to fruition with the election of Netanyahu’s Likud and far right coalition, within the holy city of Jerusalem and the Palestinian population’s evacuation from their homes and lands require massive citizen campaigns such as “Welcome to Palestine”. Settlement projects are constantly on the rise under the silence and indifference of the international political and economic community. This leads to the extinction of the Palestinians’ life under its many characteristics; historical, cultural and social. This is a very serious issue which requires alerting the conscience of international public opinion.
This campaign also seeks to place western governments face to face with their responsibilities regarding compliance with international law, and therefore with the fundamental rights of the Palestinian people. It`s time for the hypocrisy and double standards to end.
The Palestinian cause is a universal cause, not limited to a specific religion, belief, or to a communitarian problem. It is a much wider and universal subject, an issue representing the Free Man abhorring injustice, racism and colonialism and standing up for justice and equality. Today, it is our duty to reject all oppression and injustice, not only in lip service, but in actions and deeds.