CONTACT YOUR MP to protest Israel's blockade of the West Bank. Click here
The Welcome to Palestine initiative
Supporters of human rights from around the world took up an invitation from Palestine to visit families and farmers in Bethlehem, and to travel via Israel's Ben Gurion Airport. Since Israel destroyed Palestine's airport, and currently controls all entry and exit points to Palestine, there is no other way to travel there than through Israeli passport control.
The July 8th 2011 date of the 'fly-in' was chosen to coincide with the 7th anniversary of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruling in 2004 that Israel's West Bank wall, which today almost completely encircles the city of Bethlehem, is illegal.
Rather than conceal their intention to travel to the West Bank, as is standard practice for anyone who has travelled there before, the group of around 700 pledged to be open and honest about their intentions. The Israeli daily, the Jerusalem Post, reported that "such a response is likely to ensure... deportation".
As is invariably the case, Israel reacted hysterically in the run-up to this non-violent initiative. See SPSC media release: ISRAEL’S REACTION TO BETHLEHEM VISIT EXPOSES “WEST BANK BLOCKADE”
No UK nationals were prevented from boarding their flights to Tel-Aviv, but many French (hundreds) and other nationals were stopped by the airlines at the request of Israel. See Reuters video; BBC report
As flights landed from around the world, participants were detained, arrested, and most remain in Israeli prisons at this time (1655 Mon 11th July 2011). See SPSC media release: DESMOND TUTU CALLS FOR ARMS EMBARGO AS ISRAEL ARRESTS INTERNATIONALS TRAVELLING TO BETHLEHEM
DETAILS of 13 UK nationals arrested & detained in Israel for simply telling the truth at Israeli passport control here. BBC report here
1700 Mon 11th July: UK Consular staff in Tel Aviv report that 2 UK nationals are due to be deported at 1820 UK time, and should arrive in London Luton at 2355. (Easy Jet flight: EZY 2086)
At 83, the oldest UK participant, John Lyons is due to travel with Mick Napier, the UK co-ordinator of the Welcome to Palestine initiate. More details in media release here
Reports that other britons were on the same flight are erroneous.
12/7/11: Both John Lynes and Mick Napier are now back in the UK. See the Independent and this BBC report that includes video interviews with both men.
Mick Napier has issued a statement saying Israel's hysterical overreaction has backfired, here
1700hrs, Tue 12/7/11: All but four of the 13 UK nationals are being deported tonight. Details here
2350hrs: 6 UK nationals and two US citizens landed at Luton Airport after being deported by Israel earlier. See video. Four UK nationals remain in Israeli prison while they contest their deportation. The four, all Welsh, include the deputy leader of the Welsh Green Party, Pippa Bartolotti, Joyce Giblin, Fiona Williams, and Dee Murphy.
1500hrs Thursday 14/7/11: Reports suggest that 3 of the four Welsh women have been secretly deported by Israel, and that the fourth and final UK citizen, Dee Murphy, is expected to arrive back tonight at 8pm. See press releae from Swansea Palestine Action here.
More info on these sites:
Les Lividow's report of the British participation in WtP 2011 is here in English. Here in French. Here in German.
Call for support pre-July 8th
While governments are working to stop the flotilla, there's currently another initiative to challenge Israel's siege of Occupied Territories, this time the occupied West Bank which Israel illegally refuses to allow many travellers to visit. On July 8th, hundreds of people from all over Europe will fly into Israel's Ben Gurion airport openly seeking free and unhindered passage to Bethlehem in the West Bank. Bethlehem is officially twinned with Glasgow, Scotland's largest city, but Palestine as a whole is an issue of conscience for all decent people the world over. Palestine is a vast prison, but even prisoners in jails around the world are allowed visitors.
The Jerusalem Post states boldly today what everyone knows but which has been ignored by the EU and the UN. A US citizen 'plans to name Palestine as her destination when she lands at Ben Gurion Airport this Friday, even though such a response is likely to ensure her deportation.' This truth is immediately followed by an untruth, that the group 'is targeting Ben Gurion Airport' although the sole aim of those forced to transit Ben Gurion Airport is to 'target' Palestine by going to Bethlehem. The irony is lost on the Jersualem Post, which supports all Israeli Government policies, that the would-be visitors to Palestine will only be in Ben Gurion Airport because Israel bombed and destroyed Palestine's EU-financed airport, forcing everyone to transit Ben Gurion! Israel, of course, has been known to kidnap travellers on the open sea, en route to Gaza, force them to go to Israel and then charge them with illegally entering Israel!
Scots will be part of the group going from the UK. If you live in Britain, please write to your MP, if you don't then ask your UK contacts to to do so. Ask family members, friends, to press the UK government to help the UK group by
(a) putting pressure on the Israeli government to allow our peaceful passage and
(b) ensuring UK consular officials are at Ben-Gurion airport to help as required.
It's as easy as 1-2-3 to write to your MP by means of this website :
1 - Under "Select a campaign", choose the button "Support UK citizens' right to visit Palestine".
2 - Under "Find your MP", enter your postcode; click the button "Find your MP"
3 - Complete the details on the new page and submit. You can amend the text of the e-mail if you feel like it.