Nearly one hundred delegates from North America and Europe were refused entry into Palestine on Sunday as part of the ‘Welcome to Palestine’ campaign to raise awareness about Israel’s border policies.
International activists from the United States and Europe were denied entry into the West Bank on Sunday by Israeli border control after successfully crossing in from Jordan. Around 80 people were planning on visiting Bethlehem as part of the Welcome to Palestine campaign, which organized two previous events where activists attempted to visit Palestine through Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv (Palestine’s airports have been closed by Israel since the Second Intifada). Following the second “flytilla” in April of this year, in which hundreds of people from all over the world participated, the “Welcome to Palestine” campaign was hoping to keep the momentum going by addressing the border with Jordan.
The campaign is part of a larger attempt to raise awareness about Israel’s policies regarding control of entry into the occupied territories. Unlike the “flytillas,” however, the activists were not entering any territory inside of Israel, but attempted to cross through the Allenby/King Hussein entry point directly into the West Bank. The border crossing is still controlled by Israel, however, along with the entire Jordan Valley.
Activists were responding to an invitation from the Governor of Bethlehem and several civil society organizations. They were traveling with over a ton of stationary that will be delivered to Palestinian children getting ready to go back to school after the summer, according to a press release.
Traveling to Palestine can be a humiliating experience for people as they are subjected to aggressive Israeli questioning and security, even when they are entering their own country.
The Welcome to Palestine campaign highlights one of the great shortfalls of the Oslo Accords, which gave Israel ultimate control over Palestinian borders (along with sea and airspace), and thus, control over who could enter and exit from occupied territory. This has had the effect of isolating the Palestinians from their large diaspora community outside the occupied territories, as well as anyone Israel is not interested in letting through.
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