BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — PLO official Hanan Ashrawi on Monday slammed Israel’s treatment of international guests of the Welcome to Palestine initiative.
The campaign was expecting around 1,500 people to arrive for the week of agricultural, cultural and artistic events, but hundreds were barred from boarding flights to Tel Aviv.
More than 40 were held upon arrival at the airport and slated for deportation.
“The ‘Welcome to Palestine’ participants should have been welcomed as taking a courageous and principled stand affirming our common humanity, rather than being viciously targeted and prevented from visiting Palestine and joining our people in their search for dignity and freedom,” Ashrawi said.
“We call on all countries to protect their nationals from persecution and not to prevent their national airline companies from becoming instruments of Israeli coercion,” she added.
All visitors to the West Bank must first pass Israeli border control and many arriving in Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion airport do not tell Israeli security if they will be visiting Palestinian areas as this leads to interrogation and often deportation.
But the campaign asked its guests to be open about their plans to visit the West Bank.
Ashrawi applauded the “inspirational” bravery of participants in the campaign, saying Israel’s crackdown illustrated the government’s excessive reaction to those who challenge its occupation of Palestine.
“By preventing international activists from entering Palestine, Israel is not only violating international law and norms of common decency, but it is waging a war on all people of conscience who have adopted peaceful means to challenge the illegality of the occupation and the enslavement of the Palestinian people,” she said.
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