Friday, July 8, 2011

As Israel  continues to prevent international solidarity groups from entering the Ben Gurion International Airport, travelers have been posting news on the internet, by tweets, facebook, and also by telephone to document the entry refusals on flights destined for Israel.  Though Israel’s airport will not be filled with the initial number of supporters expected, the campaign of peaceful protest against Israel’s policies of occupation and discrimination continue.

Over 300 passengers were blacklisted by the Israeli Ministry of Interior Affairs and barred access to planes on their way to Tel Aviv, while some flights were canceled and other passengers deported.  The list supposedly destined to bar ‘’pro-Palestinian radicals” from boarding planes to Israel has been questionably formulated. Among the travelers on the Lufthansa plane flying from Germany on Friday, Cynthia, an English filmmaker was deterred though she had never traveled to Palestine or characterized herself as a Palestinian activist.  Cynthia, stands as one of the few hundred that have been barred access to Israel, but she, like others, has continued the struggle in international airports. Travelers have staged peaceful protests and sit-ins in airport terminals of airlines that have complied with Israeli requests.

Earlier on Friday, Günter, a German man from the French city of Strasbourg was preparing to board a flight from Zurich to Tel Aviv when the airline announced that 10 of the 11 members traveling in his French group would not be allowed to leave. Though their flight was scheduled earlier that morning they stayed to distribute fliers and hold sit-ins in front of the airline company,Swiss.  Many followers of the Welcome to Palestine campaign have not reached their final destination but their struggle is being shared with hundreds of travelers undergoing similar situations under the eyes of the international community.

Supporters of the campaign demonstrated in Roissy-Charles de Gaulle on Thursday, after being barred from travelling to Israel. They were met by a disproportionate response from the CRS, the French anti-rioting police. The members were escorted out of the airport and put on trains back to Paris with barricaded doors so as not to exit before the final destination. The Welcome to Palestine campaign has gained even more notoriety as Israel has escalated its responses with the airlines’ and governments’ complicity.  Another demonstration is planned to be held Saturday morning at the Charles de Gaulle airport at 10 to protest Israeli’s hold on international campaigns for Palestine. 

As the day consecrated to the Welcome to Palestine campaign nears its end, the more pressing issue has become finding legal representation for the numerous individuals currently being detained and held in jail.  Dr. Hikmat al Sabti, a member of a group traveling from Germany, has recently been detained and taken to an Israeli prison.  He is among a handful of individuals that have disappeared from the airport and lost contact with the participants of Welcome to Palestine.

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