Israel moves to thwart pro-Palestinian "fly-in" (REUTERS) By Jeffrey Heller JERSALEM, ISRAEL 04/15/12 9:48am EDT)
Reuters News Service
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(Reuters) - More than 40 pro-Palestinian activists reached Tel Aviv´s
international airport on Sunday as part of an attempted "fly-in" only
to be detained as Israel denied them entry and scrambled to stop
other campaigners boarding flights in Europe.
Israel´s decision to distribute "no-fly" lists to European carriers
and deploy of hundreds of police at Ben Gurion airport underlined its
deep concern over international campaigns against its treatment of
Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said that 41 people had been refused
entry at Ben Gurion airport by early afternoon and would be deported.
Four Israeli supporters, two holding "Welcome to Palestine" signs,
were also arrested as they waited to greet the arrivals.
An Interior Ministry spokeswoman said Israel on Wednesday had given
airlines the names of some 1,200 activists whose entry would be
barred. Israel made it clear the carriers would have to bear the
costs of repatriating any deportees.
Leehee Rothschild, a "Welcome to Palestine" activist, said dozens of
campaigners had since been informed by airlines that their tickets to
Tel Aviv had been cancelled.
Organizers had said some 1,200 Palestinian supporters throughout
Europe had bought plane tickets to Israel, planning to travel on to
the occupied West Bank, an hour´s drive from Tel Aviv, as part of a
campaign called "Welcome to Palestine".
The aim of the so-called "flytilla", organizers said, was to help
open an international school and a museum in Bethlehem.
But Israel, which described the fly-in as a misguided protest
against "the Middle East´s sole democracy", denounced the activists
as provocateurs and said it would deny entry to anyone who threatened
In Brussels´ Zaventem airport, around 100 Belgian and French
activists were not allowed to board flights to Israel.
The activists, some of whom said they wanted to build a new school,
held up letters that were handed to them at the airport which said
they were on a no-fly list because they intended to "disrupt order
and confront security forces at friction points".
Cellphone video uploaded by an activist to the internet showed about
20 pro-Palestinian activists at Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris
surrounded by police.
Some Israeli political commentators said Israeli authorities had over-
reacted, playing into the hands of pro-Palestinian campaigners
A similar, though smaller event last year led to a few hundred
activists being blocked at European airports and more than 100 others
were deported after Israel denied them entry.
"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 and East
Jerusalem, areas Israel captured in the 1967 Middle East War, and the
Gaza Strip that is ruled by Islamist group Hamas.
The office of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu released a
letter on Saturday which it hoped to hand the activists upon their
Echoing the "thank you for choosing our airline" announcements cabin
crew often make to passengers after landing, the letter said: "We
appreciate your choosing to make Israel the object of your
It called the activists´ campaign misguided and said they could have
chosen instead "to protest (against) the Syrian regime´s daily
savagery against its own people".
Israel´s left-wing Haaretz newspaper, criticizing the government´s
ban, said it should invite "peace activists to visit anywhere and
welcome them with flowers".
(Additional reporting by Claire Davenport in Brussels; Editing by Jon
Hemming and Andrew Osborn) (© Thomson Reuters 2012. 04/15/12)
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