Swedish #WalkToPalestine activist Benjamin Ladraa was presented with a prize at the International Mount of Olives Peace Awards earlier this week in recognition of his activism for the Palestinian people.
Ladraa was invited to the ceremony just two days before it was held, and returned to Istanbul from Ankara to meet the families of slain British activist Rachel Corrie and Palestinian boy Mohammad Abu Khdeir, who was burned to death by Israeli settlers in 2014.
“I don’t care so much for awards and official ceremonies but when my friend told me that the two families would be there I immediately changed my mind and decided to go,” Ladraa said.
The 24 year-old, who had not heard much about the event prior to being invited, was surprised to see Turkish President Recep Tayyep Erdogan was also in attendance at the ceremony and delivered a speech.
Ladraa was then asked to say a few words to the audience, and spoke about the imperative of all people to be activists for Palestine due to the ongoing occupation and its violations of basic human rights.
“Luckily I’ve gotten used to improvising speeches so I said a few words about activism and tried to hint to everyone about Turkey’s relations with Israel and that it’s possible to be critical of this,” Ladraa said, who had spoken to several Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) activists about the military agreements between Turkey and Israel the day before.
“Especially since the government here likes to portray itself as a huge ally of the Palestinian people it creates some cognitive dissonance when you see that they are also doing business with the occupying power.”
Ladraa gave his award to the family of Mohammad Abu Khdeir: “I felt like they deserve it and I will be much happier knowing it sits on their wall in Jerusalem,” he said.
The Swedish activist then spent time with the parents of 23-year-old American peace activist Rachel Corrie, who was crushed to death by an Israeli bulldozer in 2003. Craig and Cindy collected a posthumous award on behalf of their daughter.
“They are truly wonderful people and I hope that I can see them again after I finish my journey.”
Earlier this month, Ladraa spent time in the Turkish capital Ankara delivering numerous speeches and taking part in television interviews on the situation in Palestine and his walk.
He also arranged a demonstration at the Victory Monument in Ulus Square under the hashtag #StandWithPalestine alongside several Turkish activists, and advised others to set up their own protests and events in their 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.
Ladraa is 600 kilometres away from his destination. From Ankara, he is looking to travel by boat to Cyprus and on to Egypt from where he will cross into Jordan. He then hopes to be able to travel to Jerusalem, but is prepared for the possibility that Israel will deny him entry on the basis of his activism.
The Swedish musician chose to make the journey to mark the centenary of the Balfour Declaration which provided international legitimacy for the Zionist project which led to the subsequent creation of the state of Israel and the displacement of nearly one million Palestinians in 1948.