The year 2017 was significant for it’s a number of anniversaries. It marked a centenary of the Balfour Declaration, 70th anniversary of the Nakba, 50th anniversary of total occupation of Palestine and 10th anniversary of the siege on Gaza. Balfour Declaration led to the creation of the state of Israel and subsequent displacement of nearly a million Palestinians in 1948. Each event reflects a tragedy and step by step degradation of the rights of the Palestinian people and their very existence in their own state.
A Visit To Palestine Ignited An Idea
A 25 year old, Swedish activist Benjamin Ladraa has started a campaign called #WalkToPalestine to raise awareness about the Israeli occupation and the human rights violation in the occupied territories. While pursuing a career in music his jump to Palestine and Israel issue was a bit of surprise. Benjamin came in contact with Palestinians while a part time job at Red Cross and it was then he came to know about the occupation, segregation and apartheid like regime.
On visiting Palestine what he witnessed overwhelmed him with grief, but he collected himself together and stood in solidarity with the Palestinians in every way possible. He realized that just how he was unaware of this issue there are many who either have no idea or know just one side of the story. In August, 2017 he decided to start his journey of 5000 km from Sweden to Palestine, carrying a Palestinian flag and Keffiyah, symbol of Palestinian independence and interacting with as many people as possible. At every stop he tries to reach out to the local media, radio, NGOs, organizations and local cafes so as to spread his message to as many people as possible.
A Call for Activism and Support
He has now arrived in Lebanon covering a distance of almost 4000 km. Benjamin every now and then updates about his journey under the #WalkToPalestine. He posted of himself in Lebanon on 6th June, where he visited two Palestinian refugee camps:
“It has been a very emotional start these first two days in Lebanon. I visited two Palestinian refugee camps and spoke to a lot of people about how their life is here and about their views on Palestine. Life for Palestinian refugees in Lebanon is very hard. The Lebanese government does not allow them to work in any position that requires an education like lawyers or doctors. They cannot own property and they face a lot of racism. The camps are surrounded by checkpoints and in Nahr el Bared you need a permission to go and visit. People told me they feel like prisoners and the camps are very poor. Everyone I met really wants to return to their homeland and I can only imagine the frustration knowing that Palestine is only a few hours drive from the camps.
I started walking towards Beirut today and will reach the city Friday evening.”
He is calling in other Palestinian activists and supporters to join him for the walk especially in light of the last month’s ‘Great March of Return’ and encouraged others to hold meetings in support of Palestine in their respective cities. “Be the change you want to see and don’t wait for other people to take action. Be the one taking the action that you want to see happen. Let’s make Stand with Palestine into a movement and galvanise the world into pressuring Israel to stop its illegal occupation.”
A Prize By Surprise While He Stays On His Course
Last month, he received the prestigious International Mount of Olives Peace Awards in recognition of his activism for the Palestinian cause. The prize was awarded to him in the presence of the Turkish President Recep Tayyep Erdogan that took him by surprise. He eventually gave his award to the family of Mohammed Abu Khdeir who was burned to death by the Israeli settlers in 2014. He also met the parents of Rachel Corrie, a 23 year old American peace activist who crushed to death by an Israeli bulldozer that was preparing to demolish a Palestinian home in the Gaza Strip in 2003.
From Beirut he will take a plane to Amman and from there walk to the border and then to Palestine. Benjamin knows that it is not necessary that he will reach Palestine and that he might be restricted to enter the occupied territory but that doesn’t mean he will stop standing for the rights and justice of people. We all should struggle to the best of one’s abilities and not become silent spectators of violence and grave human rights violations.
We wish Benjamin all the best for his struggle and hope that all of us stand for what’s right in our own respective domain.
This article is written by Haya Wakil