Israel demands airlines keep pro-Palestinian activists off planes
Bracing for an impending fly-in of pro- Palestinian activists, Israel told foreign airlines they are required by Israeli law to remove "pro-Palestinian radicals" from flights bound for the Jewish state, The Jerusalem Post daily reported early Friday.
Hundreds of international activists were expected to land Friday at Ben Gurion International Airport near Tel Aviv, on some 50 flights from throughout Europe. The Israeli Interior Ministry sent the letter in advance of what has been termed the "Flightilla", dpa reported.
The letter, which the Post said it received from the activists, informed the airlines that "due to statements of pro-Palestinian radicals to arrive on commercial flights from abroad to disrupt the order and confront security forces at friction points, it was decided to refuse their entry in accordance with our authority according to the Law of Entry to Israel 1952 ... In light of the above-mentioned, you are required not to board them on your flights to Israel.
"Failure to comply with this directive would result in a delay on the flight and their return on the same flight," the letter said.
Around 20 activists were reportedly barred from boarding a flight from Paris to Budapest on the first leg of their journey to Tel Aviv, the Israeli daily said.
The "Welcome to Palestine" campaign is a response to a call from West Bank Palestinian civil society organizations.
A statement from the campaign said close to 600 men, women and children - French, Belgian, British, German, Italian and American - would, after landing Friday, be participating in a week of "totally peaceful" activities in the West Bank, starting Saturday.
These included cultural events, but also non-violent resistance against the Israeli occupation, including "vigils."
Israel expects the activists to take part in demonstrations, including those against its controversial West Bank barrier which are held every Friday in the Palestinian villages of Bil'in and Nil'in, north-west of Jerusalem near the "green line" separating Israel from the West Bank.
The fly-in is designed to draw attention to the fact that Israel controls all entry points into the occupied Palestinian territories. It allegedly discriminates between tourists visiting Israel and activists or Palestinians who openly declare their destination to be the West Bank.
The organizers say those doing so are subjected to lengthy questioning and even risk deportation.
West Bank visitors therefore often lie about their true destination, but the organizers have asked all activists arriving Friday to defiantly state the truth.