The Israeli government has responded with laughable hysteria for the second year in a row to the Welcome to Palestine Initiative, in which hundreds of international activists openly declare their intention to visit Palestine when landing in Tel Aviv.
Since the eruption of the Second Intifada in September 2000, tens of thousands of international activists have come to the occupied Palestinian territory to learn about the Palestinian reality and to express their solidarity by participating in demonstrations and sharing the life and hardships of Palestinians living under Israeli occupation.
However, this is the second time that participants in the Welcome to Palestine initiative decided that when arriving to Israel’s Ben Gurion airport in Tel Aviv, they won’t hide their intentions. In the eyes of the Israeli immigration authorities, this decision has transformed them into a “security threat.”
In the first edition of Welcome to Palestine Prime Minister Netanyahu personally visited Ben Gurion Airport, on his way to Bulgaria and Romania, and instructed various government agencies, including Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch, Police Commissioner Yohanan Danino and other security officials to “act decisively against attempts to create a provocation at the airport”. Netanyahu further instructed security forces to avoid unnecessary friction with the international activists.
Although such a visit did not occur on April 15, the signs of Israeli hysteria were there. The Oz Unit, Israel’s privatized immigration police, cancelled their planned strike and the Israeli police posted 650 policemen in the airport. While some of the police officers were in plainclothes, the images from Ben Gurion are reminiscent of a military coup.
Israeli authorities perceive in the arrival of the international activists a danger to Israel’s image, which may undermine current efforts to “re-brand” Israel in international public opinion. However, there is no need for international activists to damage the attempts to re-brand Israel; it is enough to read a new statement visitors are requested to sign in order to be allowed into Israel.
“I undertake that a cant be a member of any pro Palestinian Organizations and not to be in contact with any other Members of any pro Palestinian organizations, as well I will not participate in pro Palestinian activities. I understand that if I will be caught doing one of these things, all relevant legal actions will be taken against me including deportation and refusal of entry to Israel”(Errors are in the original).
In international public opinion polls, Israel is one of the most abhorred countries in the world. The 2011 EastWest’s global nation brands perception index scored 150 out of 200 countries. Israel came in behind states such as Eritrea and Chad. The hysterical reaction to international activists arriving to Ben Gurion Airport and expressing their solidarity with the Palestinian people is not about to improve this image.
* This article was published by the Alternative Information Center (AIC)