After walking for 5,000 kilometers and being denied entry into Palestine by Israeli forces, Swedish activist Benjamin Ladraa was granted Palestinian citizenship by leader Mahmoud Abbas. “This step is taken to appreciate Ladraa's efforts and his position to support the Palestinian people,” the Palestinian leader said according to a Wafa news agency report.
Ladraa's #walktopalestine, also a popular hashtag, was initiated to raise awareness about human rights violations taking place in the occupied territories. “It began after I met some Palestinians in Sweden; we became friends and I became interested in where they are from and what is happening in Palestine,” the activist recounted.
The 25-year-old began the 11-month walk – which resulted in him trekking across Germany, Austria, Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia, Bulgaria, Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan – in Sweden. The journey took the activist through some 15 countries.
“I’ve learned a lot during my journey, I can take all this knowledge and experience I’ve gained during this year to improve my future projects and hopefully start bigger and more effective projects to continue the struggle against human rights, for freedom, peace, equality and a little nicer tomorrow for everyone,” Ladraa stated.
The activist was detained at the Israeli border from Jordan, barred from entering Palestine and kept in custody for six hours. “The journey didn’t end with me reaching Palestine, the journey will end when Palestine is free,” the Swedish human rights activist said Saturday.
Ladraa said Israeli forces gave two reasons for denying him entry to Palestine.
1. The claim that he intended to organize a demonstration in Nabi Saleh village, where Ahed Tamimi’s family resides.
2. Israeli forces belief that he “wasn’t telling the truth throughout his interrogation.”
“Monsters thrive in the dark; they shut the lights of transparency… I think this is the reason for Israel not allowing human rights activists that would bear witness and the reason for them discussing a new law that would forbid anyone from taking photos or videos of the soldiers, while they are carrying out the atrocities against the Palestinian people,” Ladraa said at a press conference.
“I see Israel’s rejection of my visit as the ultimate proof that my activism is working. I see the rejection paper they handed me as one of the finest diplomas you can get as an activist, because it means they fear your activism. To be able to make an oppressive state react to your actions means you are doing something right.
“They have a lot to hide and know what impact human rights activists can have. Last week they prevented [BDS activist] Ariel Gold from coming in ...they're scared of the role we play in exposing Israel and working towards a free Palestine.”
Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum also condemned Israel's actions, saying the ban reflects Israel's isolation policy for the Palestinian people and its unfairness and pressure on people in Palestine.