More than 1,200 women, men and children are travelling to Bethlehem to show their solidarity with the Palestinian people. Twenty-five associations of Palestinian civil society are taking part in the Welcome to Palestine initiative, which runs from 15 to 21 April 2012. Their intent is to show the world that Palestine is not a prohibited destination, despite all forms of intimidation.
French airline unions CGT and Sud have announced their support for Welcome to Palestine, and MRAP voted for a motion of support for this initiative during its national convention. As well, many French personalities, presidential candidates, and elected officials also sent their congratulations and encouragement. The Mayor of Bethlehem sent a letter of invitation, and the Governor of Bethlehem has expressed his support.
The Israeli government wants to portray the contingent as terrorists whose only aim would be to “create incidents” at the airport in Tel Aviv. It has announced that it will block all passengers “would create disturbances to public order”. Logically, it should block everyone because the mission’s goal is not to demonstrate at the airport but to visit the West Bank to launch construction of an international school and a museum of the history of Palestinian refugees; to repair wells damaged by settlers; and to plant fruit trees.
The travellers would not have transited through Tel Aviv if Israel had not destroyed or confiscated airports in the Palestinian territories. But there is no other way to get there, and Israeli authorities systematically harass all travellers who visit the West Bank. Those suspected of sympathizing with the Palestinians are even forced to sign an undertaking not to enter the West Bank “at the risk of two years in prison in Israel”. This is in addition to interrogations and endless humiliating searches.