Swede Shows the Way to Palestine, Hiking Nearly 3,000 Miles,
By: J. Michael Springmann/Arab America Contributing Writer
In August 2017, Swedish activist Benjamin Ladraa began his self-funded walk from Gothenburg, Sweden, where he’s been living, to Al-Quds (Jerusalem) Palestine. That’s roughly 4,800 km., nearly 3,000 miles. A Red Cross employee, he resigned, selling all he had and using all his funds to finance the trip.
He wanted to concentrate the world’s attention on the plight of Palestinian people.
Remember, 100 years ago on November 2, 1917, Arthur James Balfour, 1st Earl of Balfour and British Foreign Secretary, issued the infamous Balfour Declaration, legitimizing the Zionist plan to create Israel. This happened as a result of the United Kingdom’s desperate financial straits in World War I; Balfour had sought monetary and political aid from British and American Jews. In return, Zionists would get Palestine. His medium was the assistance of Baron Rothschild, of the Jewish banking family [Cf. Encyclopedia Britannica].
Concerned about social justice and Israel’s persecution of Palestinians, Ladraa believes that it is the responsibility of individuals and society to stand for justice. He came to this view as the result of independent research on human rights abuses, promoting his interest in the Palestinian cause. The Swede, from a country receptive to his message, does not speak a word of Arabic.
However, he is no stranger to activism on behalf of Palestine. He had organized workshops and exhibits showcasing Zionist atrocities against the inhabitants of the former British mandate. Twenty-four-year-old Ladraa also organized a hunger strike in Gothenburg in solidarity with one held by 1,600 Palestinian political prisoners in an Israeli jail in occupied Palestine. Ladraa noted that his walk gets attention because he is doing something unusual and a bit strange, especially since he is prominently carrying a pole-mounted Palestinian flag.
Ladraa uses his trek to engage in conversations with strangers who know nothing about Palestine. He says the flag he is carrying often sparks interest in his activities. It commands attention, he notes, with people asking about the banner. In general, Mr. Ladraa says his biggest problem has been loneliness, being separated from his family and friends. He sleeps rough, albeit with the aid of a tent, often pitched under a highway bridge or in a field. Occasionally, the kindness of strangers delights him. He’s gotten meals, a room for the night, and beer–all without asking. Some people are quite taken with his difficult project and his bravery.
To date, there have been only two serious incidents. In Germany, he was caught up in someone else’s demonstration and punched. In Czechia, he walked past the Israeli embassy in Prague. Suddenly, he was detained for two hours while a swarm of uniformed police and undercover agents questioned him and used a “pyrotechnician” to search his belongings.
Ladraa says he had known nothing of Czechia’s close ties with and support of Israel. To his dismay, he learned that the country’s president, Miloš Zeman, had attended an AIPAC conference in Washington, D.C. in March 2015. There, Zeman had “urged the global community to show solidarity with the Jewish people and Israel” (Czechia embassy press release).
According to The Algemeiner, a US Jewish newspaper, the president added: ” [Israel] is the single island of democracy in the Middle East.” According to the Washington Post, Zeman said: “I always say Islamic terrorism.” The paper went on to write that Zeman had been eloquent in talking about the Iranian threat, a conversation dear to the hearts of Zionists.
Worse, Ladraa continued, the Czech Republic had provided weapons to the Zionists for use in ethnically cleansing 800,000 Palestinians from their land in 1948. He went on to quote Binjamin Netanyahu as saying that the gun he used in 1967 when fighting to occupy Egypt, Syria, and Lebanon, came from the Czechs.
Currently, in Slovakia, our walker’s route has taken him from Sweden, through Austria, Germany, and Czechia. He plans to march through Turkey, Cyprus, and then to Palestine, where he hopes to visit towns and villages, sending him messages of support. Ladraa will also go to places dear to the heart of Palestinian refugees in Sweden, sending them photos of their old homesteads.
As this author’s Arabic teacher remarked, what will happen when Ladraa nears his goal? Will he be blocked from entering Jordan or Egypt? Will the Israelis prevent his entry? Will the Israelis arrest him?
While Benjamin Ladraa’s walk has been ignored by the US media, he’s been getting plenty of ink and in-depth coverage by foreign websites, newspapers, and television stations. The Chilean and Czechia press carried stories about his walk, as did the Jordan Times, the Ma’an News Agency, al-Mayadeen TV, the Middle East Monitor, and now Arab America.
To follow Benjamin Ladraa’s journey, go to Facebook and type in his name. Additionally, there are YouTube videos about his trip that have been uploaded.
J. Michael Springmann is an attorney, author, and political commentator. He has written Visas for Al Qaeda: CIA Handouts That Rocked The World, and his second book, Goodbye, Europe? Hello, Chaos? Merkel’s Migrant Bomb. Both are available from Amazon. The books’ website is: www.michaelspringmann.com