Israel moves to thwart pro-Palestinian fly-in (REUTERS) By Maayan Lubell JERSALEM, ISRAEL 04/14/12 5:41pm EDT)
Reuters News Service
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(Reuters) - Israel moved to block an influx of pro-Palestinian
activists planning to visit the occupied West Bank, drafting a letter
from the Prime Minister´s Office suggesting they focus instead
on "real problems" in the Middle East, officials said on Saturday.
Some 1,200 Palestinian supporters throughout Europe have bought plane
tickets for an April 15 visit to the West Bank as part of a campaign
called "Welcome to Palestine".
Organizers said the aim was to help open an international school and
a museum, but Israel has denounced the activists as provocateurs and
said it would deny entry to anyone who threatened public order.
On Saturday, Micky Rosenfeld, a spokesman for the Israeli police,
said that hundreds of police officers had been deployed in and around
Ben Gurion airport, Israel´s main gateway to the world.
"We are expecting hundreds of activists throughout Sunday. Some will
be sent back to their countries. As part of normal procedure, they
will be questioned and each case will be decided upon individually,"
An Interior Ministry spokeswoman said the Immigration Authority had
on Wednesday given airlines the names of some 1,200 activists whose
entrance to Israel has been barred.
Leehee Rothschild, a "Welcome to Palestine" member, said that dozens
of activists had since been informed by airlines that their tickets
to Tel Aviv have been cancelled.
"Israel´s willingness to detain people who have not committed any
crime and have done nothing but say they came to visit Palestine is a
hysterical reaction," Rothschild said.
Palestinians hope to establish a state in the West Bank, the Gaza
Strip and East Jerusalem, areas which Israel captured in the 1967
Middle East War.
A similar, though smaller operation last year led to a few hundred
activists being blocked at European airports and more than 100 others
being deported from Israel after their entry was denied.
"It´s very unfortunate that we are once again facing the kind of
provocation coming from extremists from different countries,"
Israel´s Minister of Public Diplomacy and Diaspora Affairs, Yuli
Edelstein, told Reuters last Wednesday.
On Saturday, the office of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
released a letter it hoped to hand the activists upon their arrival.
"You could have chosen to protest the Syrian regime´s daily savagery
against its own people, which has claimed thousands of lives," the
letter read. "You could have chosen to protest the Iranian regime´s
brutal crackdown on dissent and support of terrorism throughout the
"But instead you chose to protest against Israel, the Middle East´s
sole democracy ... We therefore suggest that you first solve the real
problems of the region, and then come back and share with us your
experience. Have a nice flight."
(Writing by Maayan Lubell; Editing by Andrew Osborn) (© Thomson
Reuters 2012. 04/14/12)
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