WELCOME TO PALESTINE: Pro-Palestinian activists plan to enter West Bank without crossing Israel 14Aug12 August 14, 2012

Haaretz    -   13 August 2012

The Welcome to Palestine initiative is planning a challenge for the Israeli authorities at the end of August, when 100 left-wing and human rights activists from Europe and the United States will attempt to enter the West Bank and spend several days in Bethlehem.

On August 26, the group plans to enter from Jordan through the Allenby Bridge crossing and go directly to Bethlehem, whose governor, Abdul Fattah Hamayel, has issued them an official invitation. They will carry school supplies to distribute to local children as presents, and plan to remain in the West Bank until August 31.

This is not the first time the group has provoked Israeli authorities. In April, Welcome to Palestine arranged a “fly-in” protest, in which hundreds of activists landed in Ben Gurion Airport, with the intention of entering the West Bank. The event resulted in some of the activists being detained and sent back to Europe.

In a press statement issued by the group on Monday morning announcing its intentions, Welcome to Palestine recalled the four foreign ministers of non-aligned nations whom Israel blocked last week from participating in a Ramallah conference in support of Palestinian statehood.

The four ministers, from countries with which Israel has no diplomatic relations, had also tried to cross from Jordan, but were denied entry.

“Can you imagine Israelis being banned from European countries because they criticize European policies?” the statement said, “Do you think Israel needs us to ‘delegitimize’ itself?”

The statement included a letter from Bethlehem governor Hamayel to French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, congratulating him on the victory of the Socialist Party in France’s recent elections, and expressed hope that it heralds a change in attitude toward Israel.

Hamayel asked Fabius to support the international activists, among them French citizens, and to make sure that Israel does not “humiliate” them, as he put it, as it has done in the past.

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