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Activists plan to land in TLV airport, hundreds of flights already canceled

I’m writing this from somewhere in Europe. Sunday morning, I will board a plane* bound for Israel’s Ben Gurion International Airport. Organizers of the “Welcome to Palestine” campaign tell me that more than half the passengers on my flight will be international activists.

UPDATE: According to reports in international and Israeli media, hundreds of flights scheduled to land in Israel Sunday have already been cancelled. According to Haaretz, 60 percent of the 1,500 activists who planned to fly to via Lufthansa, Jet2 and Air France have received notice from the airlines of their flights being cancelled. Hundreds are still expected to try and board planes.

When they arrive in Ben Gurion Airport on Sunday, the activists will openly declare their intent to visit Palestine, more specifically, the West Bank city of Bethlehem, which is in Palestinian Authority-controlled Area A.

While thousands upon thousands of tourists make their way from Israel to Bethlehem every year without a problem, Israeli authorities have made it clear that the activists, who number over 1,500, will not be allowed to pass. They will be detained and deported.

The activists have been invited by 25 Palestinian civil society organizations to spend next week in the Bethlehem area building an elementary school, planting trees, and repairing village wells that Palestinians say have been damaged by Israeli settlers.

Israeli authorities say the fly-in is a provocation and an attempt to de-legitimize Israel.

On Sunday, hundreds of undercover policemen and Special Forces will be deployed in Ben Gurion Airport in an attempt to stop the activists–who the Israeli authorities call “hostile elements”– from reaching Bethlehem. Israel has also reportedly sent no-fly lists to foreign airlines and has warned the companies that if they do not comply with the state’s demands to prohibit the activists from boarding, the airlines will have to eat the deportation costs.

German airline Lufthansa and British airline Jet2 have canceled the tickets of passengers who appear on Israel’s blacklists. Activists report that Air France has also canceled a “Welcome to Palestine” participants’ ticket.

Last year’s “Welcome to Palestine” initiative saw more than 300 internationals attempt to land in Israel. Israel blacklisted most of them, including a nine-year-old child and an 83-year-old activist. Many were prevented from boarding their planes in Europe; more than a hundred were arrested upon arrival in Ben Gurion Airport.

According to Haaretz, two activists fought the deportation in 2011. Their lawyer, Omer Shatz, explained that an Israeli court accepted their appeal on the grounds that the Interior Ministry “cannot refuse entry to anyone who declares on arrival at Ben-Gurion Airport that they intend to travel to the West Bank, because the area is under miltary [SIC] control…”

Shatz added that the Interior Ministry’s exercise of control over who enters the West Bank is akin to annexing the occupied Palestinan territories.

Still, the Interior Ministry is involved in preventing activists’ entry again this year.

The Interior Ministry’s spokeswoman, Sabine Haddad, has not responded to an email asking why the international activists will not be allowed to pass and proceed to the West Bank.

The Coordinator of Government Activities in the Occupied Territories and the Israeli army has not answered requests for comment either.

*Full disclosure: Organizers invited me to join the fly-in as an embedded journalist and covered my airfare. All other expenses are mine and mine alone and the organizers are fully aware that my participation is strictly as a reporter.

Related story: 
Exclusive: ‘Political contract’ required to enter Israel? 

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  • COMMENTS

    1. caden

      What Israel should do is bar media from the airport so these idiots don’t get to make speeches. Then let them come, go to Bethlehem. And knock themselves out. Also, no chartered buses so they have to make their way there on public transportation or taxi. Israel is making an issue where it isn’t necessary. BTW, maybe they’ll pump some money into the economy. I’d also confiscate those welcome to palestine signs has incitement.

      Reply to Comment
    2. phlegmatico

      nice idea, Caden; but no cigar. These folks aren’t interested in visiting Arabic-speaking people; they want to torment Hebrew speakers. If the Israeli authorities did as you suggest, these folks would merely find a ==different== way to grab the microphone.

      Reply to Comment
    3. Dhalgren

      Well, you’ve angered Caden and Phlegmatico, Mya. You must be doing something right. Best of luck.

      Reply to Comment
    4. JG

      I really begin to understand Caden’s obsession with the SS. He is just al a fascist himself…..

      Reply to Comment
    5. caden

      Not angry, Its a publicity stunt. And Israel should have countered with something that would have defused it and embarrassed the would be “activists” It wouldn’t have been that hard.

      Reply to Comment
    6. davidmg

      I am not sure how much I agree with the tactics of their activism, but it is surely impressive. Israelis need to wake up to the aims and causes of the Palestinian solidarity movement – just as Israel has changed and evolved over time becoming evermore reactionary, the solidarity movement has evolved to a non-violent force with a rights-based discourse. viva la resistance

      Reply to Comment
    7. Dhalgren

      @Caden
      Fair enough. You’re not angry. You might want to review the language of your first post to understand why one might think so. You also seem to have an unusual definition of activism. How exactly does one engage in successful social activism without garnering publicity? That seems like a requirement to me.

      Reply to Comment
    8. caden

      Well it is a conflict, I want Israel to exist. These people don’t. They want publicity, its in Israels interest to deny that. There were smarter ways to defeat them then this.

      Reply to Comment
    9. Dhalgren

      @Caden
      Have you actually asked anyone who is participating in this campaign what their views are on Israel’s right to exist? I suspect you haven’t the basis to accuse even one of them of this charge, must less the entire campaign.

      Reply to Comment
    10. Barrington

      Good Luck, Mya!

      Reply to Comment
    11. the other joe

      I am happy for Israel to exist within the 1967 borders, I just want to visit my friends in Bethlehem. If there was a way to do that without travelling through Israel, I’m sure many would do it.

      Reply to Comment
    12. Mary Hughes Thompson

      Good luck Mya. Israel is becoming a laughing stock around the world with its paranoia and whining. They have no defense so they scream anti-semitism. Nobody wants to destroy Israel, just the zionists state. If those goons at BG stop you, there will be a hundred more in your place on the next airflotilla. We will sail on boats, we will fly on planes, we will enter by land… we will never be defeated so long as Palestine is not free.

      Reply to Comment
    13. Jack

      I wish you good luck. Israel will try to silence you but the world knows.

      Reply to Comment
    14. BOOZ

      Mary :

      What you call “zionism” with disdain is the movement that led the Jewish people to claimself-determination.

      Yes , I support an independent Palestinian state : on condition that it does not extend “from the river to the sea”.

      And yes, I am highly suspicious about the motivations of many of those activists :the best reason for this is that decided a sort of “herem” against any all and any Israelis and agaianst any Disapora Jew supporting Jewish self determination.

      Reply to Comment
    15. Rodrigo

      Dhalgren, a common position of similar activists is that they theoretically support Israel’s right to exist but in practice support the Palestinians in attempts to destroy it – such as rejecting Jewish claims to the land, insisting on overrunning it with millions of hostile Arabs and justifying any and all Palestinian violence. This can be dressed up in many flavors, but in the end these are pro-Palestinian activists.
      .

      Arguing that one supports Israel’s right to exist, such as a poster above, but then supporting the destruction of the ‘Zionist state’ is really duplicitous. It is an argument for the vague support of a political entity while demanding the destruction of everything that makes it viable.
      .

      The whole purpose of this campaign is to create an anti-Israel spectacle. I doubt that most of the participants would even bother denying this point, so it is better to throw them out at the airport than let them repeatedly come up with new spectacles to undertake upon reaching the West Bank and meeting up with like minded Palestinians. It is better to have one spectacle in a centralized location under full Israeli control than twenty all over the West Bank where they can base themselves in areas not under Israeli control.

      Reply to Comment
    16. caden

      Mary, I love that one. You don’t want to destroy Israel just the Zionist state. Or is it entity. Please explain

      Reply to Comment
    17. Rodrigo

      Mya, quick question. Where did the money come from for your ticket from Europe to Ben Gurion? Are the other people participating paying for their own tickets?

      Reply to Comment
    18. Dhalgren

      @Rodrigo
      Now you have qualified the “right to exist,” making it a “right to exist as…” That is a far less certain position to take. I suspect these activists are not questioning the absolute, unqualified “right to exist” but the qualified “right to exist as…” Nations to do not have the right to exist as any kind of society they please. Many countries certainly operate under this assumption, but such societies are doomed to fail. It is only a matter of time, for instance, before the theocracy in Iran fails (how soon is anyone’s guess). Are you saying that Israel has the right to exist as a nation that denies various rights to Palestinians?

      Reply to Comment
    19. caden

      Dhalgen, obviously you and the rest of the fly in crew believe that Israel does not have the right to exist has a Jewish state. Are there any other countries that you believe deserve the same treatment or is it just Israel? Please enlighten us has to why Israel out of all the countries on the planet deserves such attention.

      Reply to Comment
    20. Rodrigo

      @Dhalgren Now you have gotten into the realm of what existence means for a state. Activists calling for a situation where a state is forced to change its name, dominant culture, language and identity are not exactly recognizing its right to exist. It is like arguing that you support the right to exist of Spain, but supporting a movement to rename it Andalusia, make Arabic the national language, make Islam the dominant religion and turn Spaniards into a tolerated minority. It is an absurd argument. At least be honest in accepting that pro-Palestinian activists calling for the right of return are at the very least agnostic on the right of Israel to exist if not downright hostile to it.
      .

      As for the argument that some societies are doomed to failure. Now you are trying to create some kind of historical inevitability based on ideological grounds of what you think is best. I would point out that the few binational and multinational states that existed have all either failed or are verging on failure, so the alternatives generally proposed to the current situation are themselves inherently prone to failure. In the real modern world I am willing to compare the historical stability of states with a single dominant national group to that of states trying to contain multiple competing national groups. Any takers?
      .

      No, the people coming on the whole do not recognize the right of Israel to exist. Most would probably oppose the idea of Jewish self-determination and many would reject the very idea of Jewish nationhood, while accepting a similar claim of every single other group.

      Reply to Comment
    21. Shaun

      It must really to suck being an anti-Israel (pro-Palestinian) activist these days.

      Flotilla 1: no one cares any more.
      PA bid to join the UN: failed
      Flotilla 2: Flop, even fewer people care.
      “Flytilla” 1: Flop, Most activists never even made it to the flight and no news media carried the story for more than one bulletin.
      “Flytilla” 2: already headed for a flop.

      On the other hand,
      Israeli Economy: Good
      Settlements: Still Growing
      Right wing: still hold the majority

      Reply to Comment
    22. Jack

      Shaun,

      Flotilla 1: Led to renewed talks and pressure on Israel. Israel eased somewhat on the blockade.
      PA bid to join the UN: Have not failed, they could get a non membering status at the UN General Assembly. Which amongst many thing mean sending Israel to the ICC. Some 15 states have recognized Palestine as a state since Freedom flottilas, multiple western states have updated their mission (establishment of embassy).
      Flytilla: Caused massive cover in the media.
      Flytilla 2: It isnt done yet, we know on sunday, even though it has been reported already and its not a good look for Israel.
      Israeli economy, settlements, right wing has nothing to do (settlements excluded) with the problems Israel face, the isolation and looming apartheid. But maybe thats not a problem?

      Reply to Comment
    23. Jack

      Shaun,

      And of course Flotilla 2: Led for example obama to push for a state based on 1967 borders and the result was not in israeli favor.

      Reply to Comment
    24. “Israeli authorities say the fly-in is a provocation and an attempt to de-legitimize Israel.”

      Gee, gosh, Mya, I wonder what on earth gave the Israelis that strange idea?

      But perhaps these well-meaning flyers should try flying into China to go and speak to the Tibetans instead. They need they help much more, and I am sure the Chinese would be more accommodating.

      Or even, they could try Iran. Of course, the gay contingent might find there’s a reason why “there are no gays in Iran”.

      Reply to Comment
    25. Dhalgren

      @Caden
      I am not part of the “fly in crew.” I speak only for myself. If you know of an English language site like this one that addresses the injustices in Iran, I would be interested in directing my attention there as well. Obviously, one cannot address all of the issues of every nation in the world simultaneously. America and Israel have a particular shared interest (or maybe you disagree, at least when it comes to criticism). Can I ask why you think it is wrong of an American (or anyone, for that matter) to take a special interest in Israel?
       
      @Rodrigo
      Again, where is your evidence for making all of these characterizations? Seriously, direct me to the articles defining these positions. I would be ready and willing to read them. As of now, I only know that you think a group of activists all have the same definite plan for Israel. That seems unlikely.
       
      As to your other comments: unjust societies are historically unstable. That is inherent to the nature of injustice, it fosters societal tension. I am making no more ideological claim than that just societies are more stable and desirable than unjust societies.
       
      Also, in your assessment of bi- and multinational states, you fail to determine whether in these cases a just society has been created. Is it not possible that the bi- and multinational states you are looking to are not also unjust? Take Bosnia, for example. Political injustice has been addressed. However, economic injustice has not. Neither has there been an attempt to reconcile into a coherent social narrative the injustices of the past. I would say that Bosnia is an example of an unjust, multinational state. It will fail unless it addresses this injustice.

      Reply to Comment
    26. Jack

      Akus,
      Yes you want to to talk about other states. Usual technique by israeli supporters.

      Reply to Comment
    27. Anna Ruiz

      I just wonder, say in Ohio, if let’s say, New York, decided to give Ohio to the Kickapoo, Shawnee or Erie tribes, after all, they were here first.

      It takes a few seconds to imagine the other side.

      It started because it is. It is because it was started. So the question is how to end it, and does either side want to end it.

      Seems to me the Palestinians are finally getting the recognition they deserve.

      ~Anna

      Reply to Comment
    28. Rodrigo

      @Dhalgren, I have yet to see a set of objective criteria for what is considered a just society. The whole idea is so culturally loaded that it lacks any value in analysis.
      .

      Regardless of whether they are ‘just societies’ or ‘unjust societies’, binational and multinational states fail consistently. Bosnia is a wonderful example of a multinational country that failed, is still partitioned and is barely held together as a rather loose federation and only due to the presence of European peacekeepers. All this after a civil war killing 170,000 people while de facto partitioning the country along ethnic lines.
      .

      The positions of those behind the flytilla can be easily gleamed by looking at the charters and objectives of the organizations and individuals endorsing this operation. For your convenience a list can be found here:
      http://welcometopalestine.info/index.php/wtp-2012-endorsements
      .

      The vast majority of the organizations are affiliates of ISM and most certainly ideologically do not recognize Israel’s right to exist.

      Reply to Comment
    29. Jack:

      “Yes you want to to talk about other states. Usual technique by israeli supporters.”

      And you only want to talk about one state.

      Usual technique by those who have a strange, unique, obsessive interest in hoping the war waged by Arabs against only the Jewish state will achieve its aims while ignoring the horrors perpetrated in all other states.

      As the Haggadah asks:

      “Why do some people treat this state differently from all other states when all other states have massacred by the thousands and tens of thousands?”

      I’ll give you one guess.

      Reply to Comment
    30. Jack

      Akus,
      “Yes you want to to talk about other states. Usual technique by israeli supporters.”
      -
      Nice try, I understand that you dont want to approach Israel when it comes to violations of international law. Nor does a achoholics want to acknowledge there is a problem.

      Reply to Comment
    31. Dhalgren

      @Rodrigo
      A set of objective criteria for what is considered a just society can be found in the UN’s International Bill of Human Rights. Cultural factors will always complicate matters, but it hardly justifies discarding the whole idea as a goal.
       
      Your response to my example of Bosnia is non sequitur, as is. I presented it as an example of an unjust society. After all, I am not arguing for the creation of an unjust bi-national state. Frankly, I am not arguing for any solution with any certainty. I am still supportive (though doubtful) of the two state solution. However, I do not think we should limit our considerations to any one particular solution. All should be discussed and challenged.
       
      Thank you for the information on the organizations endorsing the “Welcome to Palestine” campaign. I shall review them and get back to you on that.

      Reply to Comment
    32. aristeides

      Rodrigo – how much would you be prepared to pay in negotiations in order for Palestinians to agree to Israel’s right to exist? How much would you be willing to give up for this?

      Reply to Comment
    33. Jack

      Rodrigo,

      Palestinian elected parties accept Israel.
      Too bad that Likud have a charter that rule out any state called Palestine. So your argument is double flawed, not only are you pinpointing the wrong group, they are the ones being the rejectionist.

      Reply to Comment
    34. Rodrigo

      Dhalgren, Even that resolution adopted by the UN is heavily disputed in certain quarters of the world. There is absolutely no track record of conflict resolution based on ideas of ‘just’ or ‘unjust’ societies. It would suggest that your argument for its inclusion in the criteria for judging solutions to be based purely on an ideological perspective. There are some solutions that simply don’t stand up to the test of logic or history and should be discarded. The idea presented elsewhere on this site for a binational state is one such solution.
      .

      Aresteides, how much would the Palestinians be willing to pay for Jews to recognize the Palestinian right to self-determination? Your question is weird.
      .

      Jack, Hamas, the Palestinian party that won a majority in the last elections, does not accept Israel, nor does Fatah in any meaningful sense of the word as defined above.

      Reply to Comment
    35. Jack

      Rodrigo,
      Hamas have many times said they support the two state solution. That is to accept peace and recognition of 2 states, one paletinian state and recognition that the other half will be Israel. I note your silence on Likud stance.

      Reply to Comment
    36. Rodrigo

      Jack, I call BS. I demand that you provide me with a link to any official support from Hamas for a two state solution with the recognition of Israel.
      .

      The Likud is a big tent party. It has people like Dan Meridor and Bibi Netanyahu that support the two state solution and those like Danon, Edelstein, Hotovely and others that do not. The Likud chairman and the current prime minister is on record supporting a two state solution. Here is a link to the text and video of a speech to that effect to the US Congress from last year:
      http://www.mfa.gov.il/MFA/Government/Speeches+by+Israeli+leaders/2011/Speech_PM_Netanyahu_US_Congress_24-May-2011.htm
      .

      Reply to Comment
    37. Jack

      Rodrigo,

      Besides a pending comment..

      No netanyahu doesnt support a palestinian state according to two state solution (world backed) and international law. Israel even reject the idea of them keeping a majority of settlements as palestinian offered them (see Palestinian papers).
      Not to mention he havent showed any action for such moves to begin with.

      Reply to Comment
    38. Robert

      I love the coy disclosure. You are not a journalist, you are an activist who uses the media as a tool. At least have the decency to be honest. What is this, East Berlin 1973? And the people’s revolution?

      Reply to Comment
    39. Caden

      Robert is right, to call yourself a reporter connotes a certain impartiality which is more then a little disingenuos given the situation

      Reply to Comment
    40. Jack

      This actions are beyond any dictatorship, one have to go back to stalin’s soviet to encounter anything more bizarre.

      Reply to Comment
    41. Rodrigo

      Jack, I have provided you a link to a publicly stated position by Netanyahu of supporting a two state solution. You can’t actually argue with this fact so you have provided your own interpretation of what a two state solution would be. I too read the Palestine papers. Neither side rejected anything, nor were they close to an agreement.
      .

      I called BS on your claim that Hamas supports any kind of two state solution and you failed to provide evidence. Do you admit that you were wrong?

      Reply to Comment
    42. aristeides

      Rodrigo – if you’re not willing to give up anything for it, it must not really matter to you. That’s what negotiation is about – you give up something to get what you want. But Israel is never willing to give up anything, only to take. So it rejects any admission that Palestinians have rights. All rights belong only to Jews.

      Reply to Comment
    43. Shlomo Krol

      All of us proud Israelis who don’t want to feel a shame for their country must struggle for independent Palestine which has its own international airport, or alternatively for egalitarian Israel with equal rights for all, including residents of Bethlehem, in which such Knesset and such government as the one we have today would be impossible.

      Reply to Comment
    44. Henry Weinstein

      Dear Caden, Rodrigo & Dhalgren
      .
      The photograph in cover tells all the storyline. The ‘master plan’.
      Oh how innocent and charming are these sensational activists planning to arrive in Ben Gurion airport Tel Aviv with the intention to exhibit posters & signs saying “Welcome in Palestine”.
      Ok it’s a farce for us, but it’s not a farce for people who ‘understand’ Mohamed Mehra – I’m French, I can testify they exist. I mean, French pro-Palestine activists.
      It’s not a farce for Iranian official media and most Arab official media too: “Welcome in Palestine” signs exhibited in Tel Aviv by activists.
      .
      Next: some German neo-’activists’ arriving in Gdansk, ex-Dantzig, and Kaliningrad, ex-Koenigsberg, with posters & signs saying “Welcome in Germany”?

      Reply to Comment
    45. Jack

      Rodrigo,

      “supporting a two state solution”
      -
      Of course everyone wants peace and say they want a settlement, what you ignore is that there is no netanyahu support a palestinian state (whatever its based on 1967/international law or not) at all taken all actions on the ground , in fact all his actions are in line with the likud charter (no palestinian state on the west bank, constinued settlement building, no ending annexation of Jerusalem, no right to return).

      “I too read the Palestine papers. Neither side rejected anything, nor were they close to an agreement.”
      -
      You have obviously not read the papers. Palestinian offered for example Israel to keep alot of important illegal settlements.

      Reply to Comment
    46. anna

      It’s time for the people of Israel to wake up and notice how Netanyahu politics are in fact,
      removing the *official victimhood* that is the lifeblood of Zionist politics. (Resolving and finally removing the yellow star of victim from the Jewish National Raison d’être is a healing and transformative experience, I would think.)

      You can’t cry wolf when you’re killing sheep and you’re caught in wolf’s clothing.

      More and more citizens of the world know the truth of Israeli politics even if Jews en masse still suffer from a national cognitive dissonance.

      Reply to Comment
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