The Guardian newspaper reported that the British Jet2 airlines canceled tickets of three British peace activists who intended to fly to Palestine this Sunday as part of the solidarity campaign “Welcome To Palestine”. Dozens of tickets were also cancelled by Lufthansa and other airlines.Jet 2 sent emails to the activists, from Manchester, informing them that their tickets have been voided and that they will not be compensated.

Jet2, a budget airline, sent emails to the activists informing them that it was obliged to grant Israel the names of passengers, dates of birth, nationality and passport numbers, adding that it has been informed by Israel that they will be denied entry, and that should Jet2 fly them to Israel it will be liable for fine and for flying the passengers to Manchester.

Jet 2 “offered an apology”, and said that the decision was “totally beyond their control”, yet, decided not to reimburse them.
Israel has been extensively lobbying in Europe, to prevent Palestine activists from flying to the country.

Norma Tuner, one of the women who has their tickets cancelled, told the Guardian that she never imagined that Israel will be able to deny British citizens the right to fly from British airports.

Jet2 decision was not an isolated one as the German Lufthansa announced Thursday that it cancelled dozens of tickets of peace activists who intended to fly to Tel Aviv.

A Lufthansa spokesperson stated that his company is committed to the regulations of the countries it flies to, and that Israel repeatedly asked several airlines, including Lufthansa, to prevent certain activists from flying to Israel.

Some 200 solidarity activists, mainly from Europe, intend to participate in the “Flytilla” to show solidarity with the Palestinian people and their right to independence and statehood.

As part of its campaign to prevent solidarity activists from flying to Palestine, Israel said that it will not allow the entry of what it called “hostile elements” and “provocateurs”, and sent lists to different airlines containing the names of known activists who will not be allowed into the country.

Israel also said that, should those activists fly to the country, the airlines that carried them should expect to bear the cost of flying them back.

Israeli Pubic Security Minister, Yitzhak Ahranovitch, said that Israel will identify what he called “the provocateurs” who fly to the country, and once they land, they will be detained, and will be deported.

Dr. Mazin Qumsiyeh, from the West Bank city of Beit Sahour, and one of the organizers of the Welcome to Palestine, said that the Israeli response is paranoid and hysterical, and added that Israel does not want the world to know what it is doing in Palestine.

Dr. Qumsiyeh is a professor currently working at Bethlehem University.

The activists are not planning to stay in “Israel” as they plan to travel by busses to Bethlehem directly after landing, but Israel has full control over all border terminals and entry points that lead to the occupied West Bank.

During a press conference in Bethlehem, Mayor Victor Batarsa, said that the activists are coming to the country to talk about peace, not to declare war on Israel, The Guardian reported.

“They are flying to visit the Palestinian people, living under occupation”, Batarsa said, “They are coming to help the isolated Palestinian people”.

Dozens of Israeli peace activists are trying to raise awareness through the media in order to mobilize support and welcome the activists at the airport. Some of them were even interrogated by the Israeli security.

Press Release

‘Welcome to Palestine 2012’ campaign launched

Bethlehem, Easter.-Over 25 Palestinian organizations proudly announce the impending arrival of hundreds of visitors for the Welcome to Palestine 2012 campaign and we invite you to a press conference to detail our program and goals on Tuesday April 10th at 5 PM in the Bethlehem Peace Center.

We proceeded with our preparations despite the fact that several volunteers were harassed by Israeli occupation authorities. In one case, a peace activist home was raided at 2 AM by occupation forces who took his computer and his cell phone. Other peace activists were delayed or questioned for hours as they exited or entered the country.

The dozens of volunteers working with us were only encouraged because with these actions Israel itself shed a light on its own policies of siege and isolation of the West Bank. More volunteers are joining every day to ensure a smooth program for our visitors which includes starting to build a new school, getting to know Palestinians, informative tours, and cultural exchanges.

The last campaign in July 2011 saw hundreds of individuals purchase airline tickets and attempt to board planes to Palestine. Israel sent a ‘black list’ of 342 participants from the ages of 9 to 83 years old to prevent them from boarding planes sparking huge protests in several international airports.

The Israeli military also turned the airport near Tel Aviv into a military compound. One hundred twenty-seven women and men were arrested at Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv and then imprisoned for several days as they insisted on their right to visit Palestinian associations and families.

Still, a lot of good resulted from this as well. As a result of legal challenges, many European airlines fully refunded the tickets and airline unions joined us in pressing for freedom of travel. Furthermore, the publicity shed light on Israel’s attempts to deny visits by internationals for humanitarian peaceful support to millions of Palestinians living under occupation.

What the Israeli government apparently cannot stand in this initiative is that the women and men coming from 15 to 21 April in the West Bank refuse to lie and hide. They refuse to pretend Palestine and Palestinians do not exist.

Israel calls that ‘deligitimation’ and spreads lies about the intention of the international visits. We thank these visitors for working for peace and humanity with honesty and dignity.

The international community recognizes the basic human right of Palestinians to receive visitors from abroad and supports the right of their own citizens to travel to Palestine without harassment. We reject all attempts to isolate and silence us.
Where Israel works to isolate us, we invite all to join us openly and proudly. We are thus having larger programs to challenge the siege. With the help of the international community and local volunteers, we will achieve our goal of peace and freedom and thus restore the values and principles that we share as human beings.
We invite members of the press to a press conference to detail our program and goals Tuesday 10 April at 5 PM in the Bethlehem Peace Center.