Monday, December 17, 2018

Activist denied entry to the West Bank after walking all the way from Sweden


By Alicia Ramos Perez - July 10, 2018
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Section: [Main News] [Features]
Tags: [denied entry]

Benjamin Ladraa, 25, has finished the walk of his life in solidarity with Palestine. A distance of approximately 4,500 km separates his home in Gothenburg, Sweden, from the West Bank. His walk took 11 months, crossing the borders between 15 countries. 

Talking with Palestine Monitor through Skype, he confessed to only having slept for four hours that day. He had walked 12 hours from Amman to the Allenby Bridge crossing to the West Bank, was then interrogated by the Israelis for six hours, only to be denied entry.
 
Ladraa left his hometown on August 6. He had sold all his possessions, saved for a full year and opened a crowdfunding page. Ladraa did not get any sponsorship, all the money saved was his own. “I didn’t get any sponsorship, and I didn’t want to either.” The reason for this was simple: “this is me and only me,” and he insured that he didn’t take a single penny from any corporation or organisation.
 
He managed to gather a fair amount of money from crowdfunding. “I have future projects, and I need the money I raised for that.”
 
The aim of Ladraa’s journey was awareness. “All the problems in the world are created by us, and it can only be solved by us. If you want change, you need to take action; complaining into your smartphone will not do anyone any good.”
 
His motivations to start this long journey came after a realisation that “the world always moves with pressure. People need to be informed to take action, and it is that action that creates pressure.” His walk to Palestine was a call to fight the oppression by Israel. “I felt that, by walking here, I would get some attention. I could use that attention to talk about the human rights violations. This is a good way to make people notice.”
 
Ladraa had no specific motivation as for why he started his journey. “I was very active for Palestinian rights before I started, and I wanted to travel, so I decided to combine both.” He said that the idea grew very organically. “I wanted to do something meaningful, but not just travel: combined would be a fantastic opportunity to raise awareness.”
 
Demonstration in Turkish city for the liberation of Palestine. Source: Ladraa Facebook.
 
Ladraa made sure to give lectures in schools and universities. Raising awareness through educating and informing on what the Palestinian reality is: “I used the attention to talk about Palestine. There is a lot of misinformation and propaganda.”
 
During his trip, Ladraa encountered several problems, the biggest one being in Prague. “The route took me right past the Israeli embassy. When they saw me coming to them with a huge Palestinian flag, the guards stopped me and called the police.” Ladraa had to go through a two-hour check with the bomb squad. During this period, they took his passport to take pictures of it. “All this because I was carrying a Palestinian flag, all this happens just because I was walking, it is so crazy!”
 
Ladraa travelled from Gothenburg, crossing through the whole Europe, arriving to Turkey and then took a boat to Lebanon. Once in Lebanon, Ladraa arrived to the closest he would then get to Palestine. “I was only a couple of meters away.” He then decided to fly into Amman, Jordan, and cross into the West Bank through the Allenby bridge.
 
When Ladraa was denied entry by the Israeli border force on July 5, this came as no surprise.
 
The Israelis regularly deny entry to activists and internationals that have expressed solidarity with Palestine, Ladraa told Al Jazeera.
 
He stated that the interrogation “was very weird. They kept asking where I was going. I told them that I wanted to visit as many places as I had time to.”
 
“They kept asking: are you going to Nabi Saleh?” Nabi Saleh is a small village north of Ramallah where multiple demonstrations are carried out against the occupation. It is also neighbouring and illegal Israeli settlement called Halamish.
 
Ladraa explained that the Israeli border control was creating a completely fictitious story about his activities in the West Bank, one of their assumptions being that he would go to visit Nabi Saleh.
 
“They told me: Oh! You are going for demonstrations. You want to go to Nabi Saleh and finish your story with a big thing [protest]. You want to join a protest against Israel, that is your goal!,” Ladraa recalled.
 
Ladraa told Palestine Monitor that he was only given two reasons for his denial of entry. One of them was lying during interrogation another was the accusation of wanting to join a protest in Nabi Saleh.
 
“They only gave me two reasons for denying my entry, one was that they thought I was lying during the interrogation, and the other was that they thought I would go to Nabi Saleh.” He then clarified the following: “My goal is Palestine, if I were to be allowed. I want to go and meet people. I want to listen to their stories and keep learning more.” Ladraa had no intentions to create any situation that would revolve around a conflict, simply raise awareness about Palestinian reality.
 
However, one of Israel’s ways to cover up violations against human rights is by not allowing activists to see the reality of Palestine. Ladraa stated the following once he left the Israeli border control: “Now ask yourself why the Israeli state fears one Swedish man so much that they didn’t allow him to enter the country they are occupying. This is the power of activism.”
 
According to the Ma’an News Agency, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas allegedly granted Benjamin Ladraa with the Palestinian nationality after his denial of entry. He additionally bestowed the Medal of Merit on him in appreciation of his efforts and support for Palestine and its people.
 
Palestinian Liberation Organization Executive Committee Member Dr. Hanan Ashrawi said in a statement that “on behalf of the leadership and the people of Palestine, we extend our deep gratitude to Ladraa for advocating on behalf of the Palestinian people and educating the international community about Israel’s persistent violations against Palestinian lives, lands and resources.”
 
Lead photo: Ladraa walking through Turkey carrying the Palestinian flag that joined him through his 11 month journey across Europe and Middle East. Source: Ladraa Facebook.

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