Earlier in the week the organisers of the ‘Airflotilla 2’ (‘Welcome to Palestine’) campaign held a press conference in Bethlehem. Among the speakers the organisers chose to address journalists was the mayor of Bethlehem, Victor Batarseh who urged Israel to allow the flytilla activists in.
“These people are coming to talk about peace, they are not coming to wage war against Israel,” he said. “They are coming to visit the Palestinian people who are under occupation and to talk to them and to help them because these people are isolated.”
“We are asking our neighbors the Israeli government to make it easy for these people to enter the Palestinian National Authority, so that we can have this message of peace starting from this holy city of Bethlehem.”
He called on Europe and the United States to support the protest. People who speak out about Israel’s policies are called “anti-Semitic,” he said, but urged the US and Europe not to fear this label.
Whilst he can certainly talk the talk, Mayor Batarseh’s ‘message of peace’ should be seen in light of the fact that he recently took part in the ‘Christ at the Checkpoint‘ conference held in his town, during which he told the audience that the Palestinians were being crucified by Israeli security measures, Bethlehem was a giant prison and that Jesus Christ, embodied by the Palestinian people, was imprisoned in the city by the security barrier.
Batarseh is known to be allied to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) – a terrorist organization proscribed by Canada, the EU and the US. In January this year Batarseh attended a memorial service for PFLP founder George Habash held in Beit Sahour. Terror attacks perpetrated by the PFLP include:
- On July 22, 1968, the PFLP hijacked its first plane, an El Al flight from Rome to Tel Aviv.
- In September 1970, the PFLP hijacked three passenger planes and took them to airfields in Jordan, where the PLO was then based; after the planes were emptied, the hijackers blew them up. In response, King Hussein of Jordan decided that Palestinian radicals had gone too far and drove the PLO out of his kingdom.
- In 1972, PFLP and Japanese Red Army gunmen murdered two dozen passengers at Israel’s international airport in Lod.
- In 1976, breaking a PLO agreement to end terrorism outside Israeli-held territory, PFLP members joined with West German radical leftists from the Baader-Meinhof Gang to hijack an Air France flight bound for Tel Aviv and landed the plane in Entebbe, Uganda. In a now-famous raid, Israeli commandos freed the hostages. [Despite the overall success of the raid, three hostages were killed in the firefight and one was killed by Ugandan Army officers in a nearby hospital.]
Also speaking at the ‘Welcome to Palestine’ press conference was project organizer Mazin Qumsiyeh who said of the campaign’s participants:
“These are not hooligans. The people who are coming are normal, average Europeans who want to learn and visit people under occupation,”
Hooliganism is defined as ‘rowdy, violent or destructive behaviour’ or alternatively; ‘willful, wanton and malicious destruction of the property of others’. Some might say that the attempts of Mazin Qumsiyeh and his Palestine Justice Network to eliminate the Israeli state amount to little less.
Certainly, Mazin Qumsiyeh and Mustafa Barghouti – an endorser of the ‘Air Flotilla 2’ – do not qualify as being best placed to define hooliganism in light of their equally suspect definition of the recent March 30th ‘Global March to Jerusalem’ events (which they also co-organised) as ‘non-violent resistance’ and Barghouti’s active participation in the Qalandiya riots.
Neither, of course, is Qumsiyeh’s definition of the ‘Air Flotilla 2’ participants as “normal, average Europeans” at all accurate. Average Europeans do not – unlike the members of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign or London BDS (both of which are involved in ‘Welcome to Palestine’) – align themselves with the oppressive human-rights abusing, terror financing and supporting Iranian regime by promoting and participating in ‘Al Quds Day‘ marches.
Normal Europeans do not march under the flags of terrorist organisations such as Hizbollah and Hamas who indiscriminately murder civilians. Average Europeans do not disrupt cultural events and call for boycotts of a democratic country as a means of bringing about its dismantling. And ordinary Europeans certainly do not try to deliberately get themselves deported from other countries by knowingly engineering provocations.
As for Qumsiyeh’s claim that the ‘Air Flotilla 2’ participants wanting to “learn” about the conflict – that of course is highly dubious. Seasoned activists such as these are precisely what they are because of the fact that they have no desire to have their well-entrenched opinions challenged by facts and knowledge.
But let’s say they did. A viewing of this video made by Mustafa Barghouti shows exactly what participants in the ‘Air Flotilla 2’ will be ‘learning’ on their trip – should they actually arrive.