The organizers of a 300-person tour of Palestine this week have condemned Israeli efforts to derail the program by calling it an “air flotilla” and pre-emptively blocking participants from entering Israel.’Welcome to Palestine’ is a non-partisan organizing effort by over 30 non-governmenal organizations to bring people from around the world, including France, Great Britain, Belgium, Sweden, Germany, the USA, and Japan, to Palestine to see the reality of life under occupation in the West Bank, as well as events in Israel.

The Israeli government launched a publicity campaign this week to try to deligitimize the tour by filing false statements about the participants in the world media, and ordering airline companies to stop ticketed passengers on an Israeli-created “blacklist” at the point of departure.

Several people on the list who had booked flights were sent letters from airline companies cancelling their reservations ‘based on a request from the Israeli authorities.’ The organizers of ‘Welcome to Palestine’ responded with a statement calling on all airline companies to “refuse the provocative, blackmailing, and illegal actions of the Israeli government.”

In addition, the Israeli Prime minister has directed the interior security minister that the Israeli authorities must ‘act with determination’ toward those who do make it to Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv.

According to the organizers of ‘Welcome to Palestine’, “We invited international guests, including families, to visit us in Palestine. We hope and expect the Israeli authorities to allow them safe passage in compliance with International law and normal diplomatic bilateral protocols. We also reject the Israeli government threat to engage in mass deportation of peace activists and the apparent attempt justify this unjustifiable action by using rumors that they spread.”

Palestinian businessman and organizer with the ‘Right to Enter’ campaign stated in an op-ed in the Guardian newspaper, “The prohibition on freely receiving foreign visitors is as disturbing as it is shocking, especially for a country that claims to be the only beacon of democracy in the Middle East.”