Over 1,200 international visitors are expected to arrive to Ben Gurion airport in Tel Aviv to participate in the Welcome to Palestine 2012 campaign on Sunday April 15, said Dr. Abdelfattah Abu Srour, a spokesperson of the campaign stated on Monday.Abu Srour told a press conference held at the Bethlehem Peace Center that more than 1,200 persons have already purchased tickets and are planning to come to the Palestinian areas to join a week of voluntary work and activities in the occupied Palestinian territories.
Abu Srour affirmed that the visitors are not coming to cause trouble at the airport or congest airport traffic, however, they are determined to declare to the airport authorities that they are coming to visit Palestine.
On his part, Mayor of the city of Bethlehem Dr. Victor Batarseh endorsed the campaign and issued a welcoming message to all those who would like to visit Palestine.
Dr. Mazin Qumsiyeh, media coordinator of the campaign said that Palestinian people have the right to have visitors and the fact that all visitors have to go through Israeli border-crossing points should not prevent those who want to visit Palestine. Dr. Qumsiyeh, said that the Palestinian people live in a large jail made by the Israeli military forces that controls it, however, “even those in jail have the right to be visited.”
Asked if the expected visitors are going to participate in anti-wall and settlement protest, if they are granted entry, Dr. Qumsiyeh said that they are going to participate in humanitarian and voluntary work activities including help in building a school in Bethlehem, and some agricultural activities with Palestinian farmers and they will be hosted by Palestinian families in the Bethlehem region.
Shireen al-Aaraj, a human right activists who was also at the press conference said there is no law in Israel that prohibits the internationals from visiting Palestine, so the campaign is not breaking any Israeli or international law, therefore, Israel should not deny those people entry.
Israeli media sources said that Israeli authorities are gearing up to prevent the entry of the visitors who Israel described them as “hostile elements.”
In July 2011 around 650 people signed up and purchased tickets to come to Palestine, however, over 350 of them had their reservation revoked one day before the travel date based on instructions sent to airline companies from the Israeli Ministry of Interior.
Over 120 passengers were denied entry at Ben-Gurion airport as they declared their intentions to visit Palestine. The visitors are expected to arrive on Sunday April 15.