Announcement issued by a group of anti-Israeli organizations and activists from the territories and around the globe calling for people to arrive at Israel's Ben-Gurion International Airport on July 8, 2011, and from there to go to Judea and Samaria for a week of solidarity with the Palestinians. It reads "Welcome to Palestine. Join us or help us? How to contribute?" and an email address (From the bienvenuepalestine.com website).
1. Anti-Israeli Palestinian and Western organizations participating in the campaign to delegitimize Israel are apparently preparing various types of anti-Israeli propaganda displays, using Israel's Ben-Gurion International Airport as their stage. Their objectives are to show solidarity with the Palestinians, embarrass Israel and raise international public consciousness for the so-called "right of return." The various groups and networks regard the displays as an alternative and counterweight to the flotilla currently being organized, whose goal ("lifting the siege of the Gaza Strip") they regard as "too narrow" (their goals is "lifting the siege from all Palestine").
2. A call was recently posted on Hamas' main website for "Palestinian refugees" to take regular commercial flights to Israel's airports (referred to as the airports of "Palestine occupied since 1948") on June 4 or 5 as part of the events of Naksa Day (the day commemorating the Arab defeat in the Six Day War) (Palestine-info website, May 28, 2011).
3. We do not have concrete information about practical preparations being made to implement the call. However, during the past year some of the networks and organizations participating in the campaign to delegitimize Israel and bring the "right of return" to public consciousness, tinkered with the idea of sending several hundred refugees (and their descendents) holding foreign citizenship to Ben-Gurion Airport. They would carry copies of the deeds to land and pictures of families who lived in Israel before 1948, demand to return to their houses, and employ lawyers and media backup to oppose deportation from Israel.
4. An initiative is scheduled for June 8, 2011, a month after Naksa Day to send hundreds of activists to Ben-Gurion Airport. They are supposed come from various countries around the world, including Germany. After a protest at the airport, they are expected to go to Judea and Samaria for solidarity meetings with Palestinians. There are 15 organizations planning the propaganda event, most of them territory-based and Palestinian. The most prominent organization is the International Solidarity Movement (ISM), which specializes in obstructing IDF activities in the territories. The ISM sends activists and volunteers from foreign countries to the weekly demonstrations in Bila’in, Ni’lin and other friction points in Judea and Samaria, and its leaders hold central positions in the flotilla project.
5. In our assessment, the planned propaganda displays at Ben-Gurion Airport are also a result of internal competition between the organizations and activists participating in the campaign to delegitimize Israel. Some of the organizations may regard it as an opportunity to stand in the international media spotlight by proposing an innovative initiative which will embarrass Israel and overshadow the flotilla project.
Hamas calls for "refugees" to assemble at Ben-Gurion Airport for Naksa Day events
6. A group referring to itself as the Committee Preparing the Return March called for marking June 5, Naksa Day (the day commemorating the Arab defeat in the Six Day War), with marches to the borders of Israel (referred to as "occupied Palestine") from Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
7. The committee also called for Palestinian refugees to fly to Israel's airports (the airports of "occupied Palestine") on regular commercial flights (Hamas' Palestine-info website, May 28, 2011). To date it is unknown whether Hamas' call is backed by practical preparations carried out by pro-Palestinian activists. However, the idea of sending Palestinian refugees (or their descendents) to a propaganda display at Ben-Gurion Airport to raise public consciousness for the so-called "right of return" and to embarrass Israel has been tinkered with for the past year by the networks and organizations participating in the campaign to delegitimize Israel.
8. The suggestion to hold a propaganda display of this sort was raised in the past by Dr. Paul Larudee, an anti-Israeli American activist who heads a radical leftist West Coast organization called the Free Palestine Movement (FPM). He has said that his organization intended, in collaboration with like-minded groups dealing with the so-called "right of return," to put the idea into practice.
9. Interviewed by Hezbollah's Al-Manar TV on June 16, 2011, Larudee said that various organizations, among them the Palestinian Return Centre (PRC), a British organization affiliated with Hamas,1 and an American branch of Al-Awda2 ("the return"), wanted to send about 200 Palestinians with European and North American passports to Ben-Gurion Airport. He said they would take commercial flights departing from various countries on the same day, and arrive with copies of property deeds and pictures of families who lived in Israel before 1948, and demand to implement the "right of return" and return to their houses.
Photo entitled "The Return from Exile Project" (FPM website)3
10. According to Paul Larudee, before they boarded the planes they would hold interviews which would be released to the press after their arrival in Israel. In Israel they would be received by Palestinians, a legal team and the media. He said he expected Israel would try to deport them, but, he said, they would oppose and refuse to board flights back to their points of departure. During an FGM fundraiser Larudee claimed that there were already Palestinians in Israel dealing with logistics and media coverage.
Al-Manar TV interview with Dr. Paul Larudee (Al-Manar TV website, June 16, 2011)
11. Another report about the airport project appeared on the FGM website. According to the report, the passengers would come from countries whose citizens did not need visas to enter Israel and would include those to whom Israel had already denied entry. When they arrived in Israel, said the report, it was highly likely that deportation orders would be issued for them and in that case, they should oppose non-violently. Past experience, it continued, had shown that in such a case an airplane pilot would refuse to let the deportees be boarded. Lawyers would be organized beforehand to help the deportees and they would claim that they were volunteers who should be allowed into Israel at least until their court hearings. According to the FGM website several cases will also reach Israel's Supreme Court and the International Court. The media will be prepared in advance to cover the events.
Plan to send activists to Judea and Samaria through Ben-Gurion Airport on July 8, 2011
12. A group of anti-Israeli pro-Palestinian organizations and activists from the territories and abroad are planning to organize a "consciousness-raising event" at the Ben-Gurion Airport and in Judea and Samaria on July 8. The project is the initiative of 15 groups and organizations in Judea and Samaria and abroad, most of them local and Palestinian (see the Appendix for the list of organizations).
13. Conspicuous among them is the International Solidarity Movement (ISM), an international network which belongs to the coalition directing the campaign to delegitimize Israel and which specializes in obstructing the activities of the Israeli security forces in the territories.4 It has a central role in sending activists from abroad to friction points in the territories such as the villages Bila’in and Ni’lin and its senior members have important positions in organizing the flotillas to the Gaza Strip within the framework of the FGM.
14. According to the website of the event's organizers, they have chosen to arrive at Ben-Gurion Airport on July 8 because the following day marks the anniversary of the day (July 9, 2004) the International Court in the Hague declared the security fence (which they refer to as "the wall") erected, according to the website, to support the settlements, was illegal. According to the organizers, 500 people have already ordered tickets for the flights, including families with children. One group connected to the initiative operates in Berlin (according to an interview on Israel Channel 10 TV with one of the activists), and may fly to Israel from there. However, additional groups are organizing to arrive at the same time from other countries. The organizers say delegations will arrive from Europe, North America, South America, Asia and Africa.
15. The organizers are planning a non-violent protest display in support of the Palestinians at Ben-Gurion Airport on July 8. From there they will leave for Judea and Samaria, where they will visit Palestinian villages and cities for a week, accompanied by local residents. They are aware that it will not be a summer camp because visiting the territories may involve risks. They are taking into consideration that the visitors will come into contact with IDF soldiers and a confrontation may arise. They are also taking into consideration that it is highly likely that Israel will not allow activists from pro-Palestinian organizations such as the BDS to enter the country and will deport them from Israel, but that should not deter them from arriving. In any case, they will be instructed not to hide the fact that they came to visit "Palestinian friends."
16. Ideologically, the organizers of the "consciousness-raising event" regard it as a counterweight to and extension of the flotilla and convoy activity. That is because, they claim, the flotillas and convoys focus narrowly on the issue of the Gaza Strip, while Israel (to which they refer as "the Israeli colonial regime") continues its "apartheid policies" and "racism" throughout "historical Palestine," including the Negev (southern Israel) and Galilee (northern Israel), violating basic human rights and conducting ethnic cleansing. The terminology they use (in an announcement issued in March 2011 and since on their websites) clearly indicates that they do not recognize the State of Israel and belong to the international coalition involved in the campaign to delegitimize it.
17. In addition to the fundamental objective of defaming Israel to erode its legitimacy in international public opinion, the secondary objective of the event is, according to the organizers, to protest the limitations Israel places on the arrival of anti-Israeli individuals from Ben-Gurion Airport to Judea and Samaria (or, as they put it, the humiliating attitude of the officials at the Ben-Gurion Airport...and the illegal, offensive, arbitrary opposition preventing humanitarian organization activists and peace activists from reaching Judea and Samaria).
Organizations and Groups behind the Initiative
Al-Rowwad Cultural and Theatre Training Centre, www.alrowwad-acts.ps
Alternative Information Center www.alternativenews.org
BADIL Resource Center for Palestinian Residency and Refugee
Bil’in Popular Resistance Committee www.bilin-village.org
Friends of Freedom and Justice, Bil’in www.bilin-ffj.org
Grassroots Palestinian Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign www.stopthewall.org
Holy Land Trust: www.holylandtrust.org
International Solidarity Movement: www.palsolidarity.org
Open Bethlehem: www.openbethlehem.org
Palestinian Centre for Rapprochement between People www.PCR.PS
Palestine Justice Network www.palestinejn.org
Palestine Solidarity Project WWW.palestinesolidarityproject.org
Popular Struggle Coordinating Committee www.popularstruggle.org/
Siraj Center for Holy Land Studies, www.sirajcenter.org
Youth Against Settlements (Hebron)
1 The PRC is an organization affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas which operates in Britain. Hamas activists who sought asylum in Britain have senior positions on its board of directors. The most prominent of them are Majed Khalil Musa al-Zeer and Zaher Khaled Hassan al-Birawi.
2 Al-Awda is a pro-Palestinian organization operating in the United States to promote the so-called Palestinian "right of return." Its full name is the Palestinian Right to Return Coalition, PRRC.
4 For further information about the ISM, see the December 7, 2010 ITIC bulletin, The International Solidarity Movement (ISM) is a network founded by extreme American leftists and part of the campaign to delegitimize Israel