Israel moves to thwart pro-Palestinian "fly-in" (REUTERS) By Jeffrey Heller JERSALEM, ISRAEL 04/15/12 5:05pm EDT)
Reuters News Service
Reuters News Service Articles-Index-Top
(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 hundreds of police at Ben Gurion airport underlined its
deep concern over international campaigns against its treatment of
Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said that 45 people had been refused
entry at Ben Gurion airport by the evening and would be deported.
Nine Israeli supporters, some holding "Welcome to Palestine" signs,
were also detained 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
"What are they doing here? ... If they want to check the issue of
human rights, they should go to Syria, maybe they can help stop the
slaughter of thousands of innocents. They should go to Iran and stop
the stoning of women," Prime Minister Netanyahu told reporters on
In a separate incident in the West Bank, video footage broadcast on
Sunday of pro-Palestinian protestors confronting Israeli soldiers a
day earlier showed an Israeli Lieutenant Colonel smacking an activist
in the face with his rifle.
The Israeli military called it "a serious incident" and a spokeswoman
said it was investigating what happened. Netanyahu later condemned
the incident, saying such acts had "no place in the Israel Defence
Forces and the state of Israel".
In Brussels´ Zaventem airport, around 100 Belgian and French
activists were not allowed to board flights to Israel. Thirteen
people were blocked from a flight in Manchester.
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.
Netanyahu´s office released a letter on Saturday which it hoped to
hand the activists upon their arrival.
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 Maria Golovnina) (© Thomson Reuters 2012. 04/15/12)
Return to Top
MATERIAL REPRODUCED FOR EDUCATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY