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Israel braces for ‘Flytilla’ protests (TIMES OF ISRAEL) By GABE FISHER 04/15/12) Source: http://www.timesofisrael.com/israel-on-high-alert-ahead-of-flytilla/
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Transportation Minister says borders will be defended in any possible way
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“We are going to defend the borders in every possible way,” said Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz to Israel Radio on Sunday morning, responding to questions about the “Flytilla” protest set to take place at Ben Gurion airport.
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Hundreds of international pro-Palestinian activists are scheduled to arrive at the airport on Sunday, but are not expected to be allowed entry into Israel. An estimated 650 police and security officials, most in plain clothes, have been assigned to guard the airport.
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By early morning Sunday, no attempted entries by protesters had been reported. Last year, a similar “Flytilla” event resulted in dozens of arrests and deportations.
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According to Katz, Sunday is to be a very busy day at Ben Gurion, with some 50,000 travelers passing through the airport due to the end of the Passover and Easter holidays.
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On Saturday, responding to requests from the government, several airlines cancelled flights to Israel, resulting in an estimated 60 percent drop in the amount of protesters due to arrive, Haaretz reported.
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Authorities are paying particular attention to flights arriving from England, France, Belgium and Turkey, as most of the international activists are expected to arrive from these countries.
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Ynet News reported that dozens of left-wing activists protested at Charles DeGaulle airport in Paris on Sunday against the cancelled flights, holding up signs reading: “The first checkpoint is in Paris.”
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The Prime Ministers’ Office prepared a letter to be distributed to the activists who do arrive, defending Israel’s policies and advising them to focus on the “real problems” plaguing the region like Syria, Iran and Gaza before wishing them a “pleasant flight home.”
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Katz vigorously defended Israel’s right to turn away the activists, whom he said are known provocateurs backed by Iran. “Lets not kid ourselves, these people are arriving to deliberately undermine Israel’s sovereignty,” Katz said, asserting that Israel’s response was proportionate to the threat.
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“We are one of the most democratic and liberal states in the world… but these are not people who want to be interviewed or who want peace. These are not simple people, they are people who want to harm the State of Israel,” said Katz.
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“This is the way to guard our borders. Ben Gurion airport is the entrance to the state. What if tomorrow they want to enter from the border with Jordan, Syria or Gaza? We have the right not to grant entry, just like any state.”
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Meretz chairwoman Zahava Galon, told Israel Radio that she believed Israel was mishandling the protest. “The decision makers in this country have gone crazy,” said Galon. “Of course we have the right to defend our sovereignty, but the security of the state would not be threatened by several hundreds of protesters.”
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Galon said that Israel’s reaction to the protest, blew the whole affair out of proportion. “We have turned this into an international story that only serves those who delegitimize us,” she said. “Israel has adopted the practices of [Syrian President Bashar] Assad, by blocking off its borders. The best way to handle criticism is to negate it.”
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Several Right wing activists, including National Union MK Michael Ben Ari, arrived at the airport Sunday morning to hold a counter protest.”This is not just another fly-in, this is anti-Semitism in modern garb,” said Ben Ari.
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Local pro-Palestinian activists are also expected to arrive at the airport to greet the international arrivals.
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Police forces were instructed to use minimal force in dispersing the demonstrations and apprehending the protesters. (© 2012 THE TIMES OF ISRAEL 04/15/12)
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