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"Air Flotilla" successful in exposing Israeli blockade of West Bank

Israeli authorities deployed hundreds of police officers to arrest and deport pro-Palestinian visitors. The Minister of Tourism announced that “good tourists” will be greeted with flowers

Ben Gurion International Airport, Tel Aviv (photo: N i c o_)

Panic. There is no other way to describe the Israeli reaction to a plan organized by a few activists—no more than a thousand, according to the most generous estimates—to try and travel to the West Bank via Ben Gurion International Airport. A handful of those visitors arrived  (five of them have already been deported), and it seems that the whole country has gone mad.

Haaretz has reported a special deployment of hundreds of police officers and special units both inside and outside the terminals, “in case one of the arrivals tries to set himself on fire.” The Petach Tikva court, in charge of the airport area, is to have more arrest judges on alert, and the minister for Hasbara (propaganda) Yuli Edelstein demanded that the government take no chances, “because we should remember what happened on 9/11.”

All this, lets not forget, in order to welcome between a few dozen to a few hundred Westerners (most of them quite old, according to reports), who would arrive on separate flights and on different hours, who went through extensive security checks before boarding their planes, and who openly declared their intentions to visit the Palestinian territories. This is the national threat that has captured all the headlines for some days now in a country armed with one of the strongest armies in the world as well as an extensive arsenal of nuclear bombs.

While events at the airport are more absurd than tragic (there is a torrent of jokes on twitter about this, like: “attention all units, attention all units, a Swedish woman is now getting off flight 465″, or “security personnel have been ordered to report all those not singing ‘Heve’nu Shalom’ at landing”), one cannot watch the government’s handling of this situation and not question the judgment of Israeli decision makers, or wonder about the things they are capable of doing if and when they sense a more substantial threat. One of the sole voices of reason was Yedioth’s Eitan Haber, former secretary of Prime Minister Rabin, whose commentary today had the title: “We simply lost it” (“ירדנו מהפסים”).

—————

The lunacy started at the top. Earlier this week, Netanyahu’s office has released a statement saying that the “welcome to Palestine” campaign “is part of a continuing effort to undermine Israel’s right to exist.” This call for action was supposed to have expired long ago from over use (I wonder what doesn’t constitute, in Netanyahu’s eyes “an effort to undermine Israel’s right to exist?”), but it did spark the desired result in the government. Internal Security Minister Itzhak Aharonowitz (Israel Beitenu) has put his forces on high alert, promising “not to let the hooligans enter Israel,” and senior police officers promised “harsh treatment” for those who will manage to board their flights to Tel Aviv.

The real nugget was revealed today, when Tourism minister Stas Misezhnikov sent his people to the airport to hand flowers to those arrivals that are not planning to travel to the West Bank. “Handcuffs to the activists, flowers to the tourists,” one of the headlines read. The tourism office, it was reported, fears that arrivals to Israel will “meet unpleasant sights of riots and arrests.”

“My office will welcome ["normal"] tourists in a respectful way that will convey the message that Israel is asafe, advanced and attractive place to visit,” Minister Mazesnikow told the press. His statement would have seemed to invoke the practices of the Soviet regime, if I weren’t sure that Mazesnikow, an immigrant from the former Soviet Union, knew better.

There is a deeper point to make here: By dividing the tourists to “evil” ones and to “good” and “honest” ones, according to their political motivation and their views on the Palestinian issue, Israel is confirming the logic of the BDS movement – that any business or contact with Israel is political, and probably serves Israeli policy. Much in the way the Israeli Foreign Ministry promotes on its Facebook wall articles on artists who plan to visit Israel next to pieces denouncing the Palestinians, the tourism office now views every visit to the county, whether for business, religious or personal reasons, as a sign of support in the face of “an effort to undermine our existence.”

—————

In recent days, government officials have made a single talking point regarding the “Welcome to Palestine” campaign: that every country has the right do defend its sovereignty. If the United States, France and Japan can reject people from entering their territory without bothering to cite their reasons, why can’t Israel? Yet these are the same people who on any other week of the year deny even the term “occupation”, claiming that since the Oslo agreement, “Palestinians control their own lives.” PR people and supporters of the Israeli government repeat this idea all the time, and while everyone familiar with the reality in the West Bank knows that the Palestinian Authority has more or less the authority of a local US municipality, it is always surprising how widespread is the notion that Israel has effectively removed its control from the territories.

Here, for example, is a quote the glossary section in the internet site of the Propaganda organization “Stand with US

Israel never formally annexed the West Bank or Gaza, and the Palestinians are not Israeli citizens and wish to have their own state. Today, Palestinians have their own government, the Palestinian Authority.

This is Morton Klein, head of Zionist of America, in often-cited 2002 article titled “There is no Occupation“:

Following the signing of the Oslo accords, the Israelis withdrew from nearly half of the territories, including the cities where 98.5% of Palestinian Arabs reside. The notion that the Palestinian Arabs are living under “Israeli occupation” is simply false. The areas from which Israel has not withdrawn are virtually uninhabited, except for the 2% where Israelis reside.

And this is another mouthpiece for the occupation, Washington Post’s blogger Jennifer Rubin:

Now ninety-five percent of Palestinians are under the jurisdiction of the PA, which is responsible for everything from local police to schools. Israel’s official interaction with West Bank Palestinians is limited to intelligence gathering and extraction of terrorists.

The Welcome to Palestine campaign was meant to prove that not only did Israel never remove its control from the Palestinians, but also that the West Bank is effectively under an Israeli blockade. Every person and all good entering the Palestinian Authority must be cleared first by Israel. Some might argue that this is a legitimate security precaution, but the history of this policy proves that security concerns are not the factor determining whether people receive permission to enter or leave the West Bank; rather, the determining factor is the political need to maintain the occupation. Two high profile recent cases were that of Prof. Noam Chomsky and a Spanish Clown, both of whom were denied entry for their support of Palestinian independence, but these kind of things happen on a daily basis.

Considering all this, it’s clear that even before a dozen activists landed here, the “Welcome to Palestine” campaign won the day. Israel has played its part perfectly, spreading threats and promising to immediately deport anyone who stated his intention to visit the West Bank or cited a political motivation for his travel. Israel has even prevented a couple of Dutch pro-Palestinian journalists from boarding an El-Al flight, perhaps fearing that they might report something Jerusalem won’t like.

When the first news items on the “air flotilla” appeared in the Hebrew media, some of Israelis wondered in comments why the activists didn’t enter the West Bank through the crossing point at the Jordanian border, believing it to be controlled by the Palestinians themselves. The myth of the Oslo withdrawal was so successful, that even some Israelis took it as a fact.

After a week of headlines on the activists’ invasion, everybody knows that even more than Gaza—which can be entered through Rafah, where there is no Israeli presence—the West Bank is under an Israeli blockade.

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  • COMMENTS

    1. Deïr Yassin

      The organizers of “Welcome to Palestine” declare that they no longer accept to lie when they want to visit Palestine, to sign documents declaring they will not go to the O.T., that they no longer accept the humiliation at the airport, and the arbitrary deportation of pacific activists.
      If Israel could indicate a way to go to Palestine avoiding their control and their mere presence, I would be very interested. At the Allenby Bridge, the contempt and arbitrariness is even worse.

      People are regularly treated as dogs, also when they leave by Ben Gourion, so this has absolutely nothing to do with security.
      In the spring a huge delegation of French citizens went to Israel AND Palestine. The welcomme was in the best Hasbara-style, but when they left, and the National-Zionist police or whatever the local ‘Polizei’ is called, realized they’d had the chutzpah to go to Palestine too, 8 people were selected – among them a Senator – and they were strip searched in front of their fellow travellers.

      Reply to Comment
    2. Empress Trudy

      Seems rather parasitic, no? You have to fly on an Israeli airline or airline partner on your own dime to make a semi-public statement that…what? Israel is an open society that allows people to fly there?

      I recommend you declare your Jewish heritage and book a flight on Delta to Riyadh. They’ve already said they won’t let you on the plane. Moreover they won’t let you board if you carry an Israeli passport or any passport with an Israeli stamp in it.

      Nonetheless. The Flotards have already said they bring nothing to Gaza but rhetorical well wishes. So it’s unclear what ‘blockade’ they refer to. All one need do is refer to COGATs statistic to get a read on what is allowed in and out of Gaza. Moreover Hamas this week said that things in Gaza are so good that they wish to given credit for the wonderland that Gaza is now.

      Reply to Comment
    3. In reference to ‘empress trudy’

      Saudi Arabia
      Fact they refuse entry to Jewish/Israeli’s
      /Jewish stamped passport. We all know that
      Fact they don’t deny it.

      Israel
      Fact they control every entry/exit point
      into the West Bank.
      Fact they refuse entry to anyone admitting
      they wish to travel to the West Bank.
      Fact they never admit that is their policy

      Do you see the difference?
      At least Saudi has the balls to admit it
      rather then lie to the world.

      Reply to Comment
    4. max

      “The organizers of “Welcome to Palestine” declare that they no longer accept to lie when they want to visit Palestine, to sign documents declaring they will not go to the O.T., that they no longer accept the humiliation at the airport, and the arbitrary deportation of pacific activists.”
      That’s simply a blatant lie, as you can find many Palestinian travel agencies with a simple web search.
      .
      Thousands of people visit the WB / Palestine every year with written and oral declaration of their destination.
      The only ones stopped are those that seek trouble.
      .
      It’s quite a typical tactic: present false information, which many may believe is true, and show how wrong it is.
      But I guess lying for “human rights” is OK.

      Reply to Comment
    5. Deïr Yassin

      Well, Max. I guess I know a little more about deportation of pro-Palestinian peace activists than you do. I suggest you read the French PDF that Noam linked earlier. (On July 3, I think). There’s a statement (in French) from the organizers, just after the declarations from Mazin Qumsiyeh. They say exactly what I wrote, and even more.
      One of the coordinators of the “Welcome to Palestine” Mission, French Jewish Olivia Zemor (in the video too, blond hair, black t-shirt, sitting next to Tareq Ramadan) was expelled from Ben Gourion just before Christmas for the mere fact that she was going to see Palestinian AND Israeli activists. More than 24 hours in a cell, and expelled without her shoes.
      We all know what your ‘seeking trouble’ is: fighting for a Palestinian state according to International Law is one of them.
      Keep on spinning … Edelstein has more wool on stock in his basement.

      Reply to Comment
    6. max

      Dear Yassin,
      So because it’s in French on PDF it becomes true? Interesting reasoning :)
      And I guess my simple observations and statements aren’t true because they’re neither in French nor in PDF?
      You cite people, I show facts.

      Reply to Comment
    7. Deïr Yassin

      @ Max
      I was referring you to the official statements because I don’t want to discuss this with you. Waste of time.
      As far as your ‘simple observations’ and ‘showing facts’ are concerned. I think you’re too busy sniffing Ziocaïne to see anything around you.
      Maybe you should actually READ Noam’s article.

      Reply to Comment
    8. Empress Trudy

      Deir Y if you insist on using patently offensive terms predicted with ‘zio’ then I shall feel free to insist you’re a camel molesting terrorist. It’s axiomatic and only fair.

      Reply to Comment
    9. max

      Dear Yassin,
      I was addressing the lie you perpetrated by showing that it makes no sense.
      As for not allowing in trouble makers: I suggest for someone to ask for a French visa declaring that s/he’s looking to visit Free Corsica.
      Vive la Corse libre!

      Reply to Comment
    10. Max,

      There are plenty of travel agencies specialising in designing tours to Palestine. There are Palestinian universities offering summer schools to international students. There are all kinds of cultural and artistic programmes happening here that are well-publicised abroad, whether it’s a folk-dancing event in Ramallah or the olive harvest.

      The existence of these events and organisations doesn’t mean that you will be allowed in. Both tourists and peace activists get turned away all the time. I have a friend who was accepted on an MA programme at Bethlehem University. He had to withdraw from the course because Israel refused to issue him with a visa to enter. He was not a troublemaker of any kind, just a student – a student who had chosen a course in Palestine.

      I am a peace worker in Bethlehem; I have first-hand experience of what it’s like to be interrogated at the border and the airport. The questions are often intrusive and patently racist. The first time I came here – as a teenager in a Christian youth group who knew very little about the conflict – I was questioned over the various Middle Eastern stamps in my passport. The border policeman asked me, “Do you have Arab friends?” When I said yes, he asked, “Why?”

      And that was just a small taste of what was to come on subsequent visits. My personal e-mail account opened and viewed, the contacts in my phone checked, my dress sense scrutinised because the border policewoman believed that my long skirt made me look Muslim. Sometimes it lasts for hours. This is nothing to do with security. I knew a girl who arrived as a tourist (she was travelling the world) and left as an activist because the reception she got when she entered the country compelled her to look into what is going on here. She was detained and questioned for six hours, with the policewoman accusing her of lying when she said she didn’t know any Palestinians. “I’ve got two options here: I can either kick you back into Jordan, or I can put you on the next plane to Britain because of all your lies!”

      This is common. So are invasive baggage searches on the way out – one friend was held up for hours when they discovered an embroidered shawl and a jar of date honey from Bethlehem in her bag. They insisted on taking the contact details of all the Palestinians she knew, and for what? What have honey and embroidery to do with security? This girl is involved in research at Ben-Gurion University, and she had decided to make a three-day visit to me in the West Bank. It should have been clear that she was no threat, but those three days cost her three hours of interrogation at the airport.

      Making fallacious comparisons with Saudi Arabia won’t change the fact that this happens and it’s wrong. I know just how abysmal Saudi Arabia’s record on pluralism and tolerance is. How does invoking this make Israel look any better? Is this the litmus test of morality for ‘the only democracy in the Middle East’ – not being as repressive as Saudi Arabia? The last time I entered this country, I was asked, “Are all your friends in Israel Jewish?” I said yes, because personal experience has told me what happens if I say no – my stay in the border terminal is extended by hours, and there is the risk that I get kicked back. Telling myself, “I might face worse in Saudi Arabia!” is no help in these circumstances.

      If you had to live in Palestine as a Palestinian and face the obstacles they face in trying to live a semi-normal life, this reasoning wouldn’t comfort you. It might also start to look a little threadbare. It’s easy to extol the glories of Israeli democracy when you are in receipt of its privileges. Not so easy when you’re on this side of the wall.

      Reply to Comment
    11. Deïr Yassin

      As with the Gaza Flotilla II, Israel has subcontracted the dirty job to others.
      9 French activists have just been denied booarding at Roissy-Charles de Gaulle on a flight to Tel Avis via Budapest with the Hungarian airline company Malev.
      “The Israeli check points are even at Roissy”, one of the activists said.

      Malev agents have shown a list to the passengers with their names, and a letter from the Israeli Ministry of Interior indiquating that if the company boarded the listed passengers, the plane would not be allowed to ‘normal access’ at Ben Gourion.
      Nicolas Shahshahani, one of the organizers expressed that the israeli authorities is working with auxiliaries from a distance.
      http://www.lexpress.fr/actualites/1/actualite/la-flotille-bloquee-israel-ecarte-les-passagers-de-avion-propalestiniens_1010290.html?actu=1
      The-Only-Democracy-In-The-Middle-East looks more and more autocratic, all while denying the Palestinians to receive who ever they want to.

      Reply to Comment
    12. max

      Vicky, thanks for your lengthy comment, and let’s first clear one misunderstanding: I haven’t mentioned Saudi Arabia – why did you? Please don’t mix up people and ideas :)
      .
      In essence, you’re not refuting my statements but saying they don’t represent the whole truth.
      I agree with you.
      I wasn’t trying to provide the full picture. I was – actually did – show that the claim that one can’t enter Israel when saying that you came to be in the WB / Palestine is a lie.
      .
      Your point is that those I describe as ‘assessed troublemakers’ often aren’t. I have no reason to doubt the veracity of your statement and experience, and I’m not going to defend the actions of people who do a bad job.
      I will, however, point out that the tight security and fear of terrorism are – unfortunately – the result of successful terrorist acts.
      .
      I’d also point out that in order to assess whether or not these ‘false-positive’ incidents are worse than one would expect, you’ll need to check stats… obviously, when it happens one feels humiliated and/or angry, regardless of the statistical frequency.
      .
      Finally, I think that the work you do is important. It also means that it’ll be extremely difficult for you to be objective about the ‘big picture’, as it is for terror – and oppression – victims.

      Reply to Comment
    13. @MAX, DEÏR YASSIN

      your comments are welcomed, but please stay on topic and don’t get personal.

      Reply to Comment
    14. max

      Dear Yassin,
      Thanks for the translation :)
      But you may want to check the only part you added on your own, namely the definition of autocratic.
      You may also ask Mr. Abed whether the warning to the airline was about having to pay the flight back (early in the article) or because “the plane would not be allowed to ‘normal access’ at Ben Gourion” (later), or both.
      But the bottom line is: so what? France has a similar policy: Vive la corse libre!

      Reply to Comment
    15. Empress Trudy

      Deir Y the common cry of paranoia since time was. The Eternal Jew has somehow coopted entire foreign governments to do their bidding.

      Of course they have.

      Reply to Comment
    16. sylvia

      Kate

      “Saudi Arabia
      Fact they refuse entry to Jewish/Israeli’s
      /Jewish stamped passport.”

      What, not even to Yathrib? Khaybar?

      Reply to Comment
    17. Jan

      For those who wonder why people don’t go through Jordan across the Allenby Bridge I suggest that they read Alice Walker’s description of her trip into the West Bank and the vile treatment meted out by the Israelis, Israelis who have no heart nor soul.

      Here is her blog. Scroll down to the second article and see if you would like the same treatment. I don’t think so.

      http://alicewalkersgarden.com/blog/

      Reply to Comment
    18. Weinstein henry

      Euh Max, je suis Français et I can certify you that if someone in Israel or elsewhere asks for a French visa to visit “Free Corsica”, no French official would think that the very existence of France is under existential threat, but would take it as a joke just like me reading your “France has a similar policy: vive la Corse Libre”!
      Do you really believe Corsicans are not French citizens with the French nationality, just like the other French citizens?
      Do you think Napoleon had to ask for a visa to become l’empereur des français?!
      To Vicky: thank you for your post.

      Reply to Comment
    19. Sam Smith

      Weinstein: “if someone in Israel or elsewhere asks for a French visa to visit “Free Corsica”, no French official would think that the very existence of France is under existential threat”

      Of course they wouldn’t, because the Corsicans have not intention of wiping out the French state. The Palestinians, however, are rather unambiguous about their plans: they want two Palestinian states.

      Reply to Comment
    20. Moshe

      Vicky last I checked there is still no Palestine or Palestinians! That said any country has the right to refuse entry to anyone they want. Saudi Arabia is a racist and oppressive state, but that will probably never change. The awful treatment of “activists” by the border patrol is a real stain on our beautiful country and must be addressed. However they have a right to question everyone even if it is seemingly harsh and invasive. There are no laws here against profiling for security (situations) and the fact is that makes the security much better. The focus is on a small percentage of travelers, whom they feel need extra scrutiny. The vast majority pass through quickly, usually faced with little more then the standard security procedure. Compare this with the one size fits all of American and European airport security and you have a much more effective system. Bottom line, your an “activist” in Bethlehem but the last time I checked we still are not at peace with the people of Bethlehem or any other part of the disputed territory’s. As such “activists” could be regarded as aiding and abetting the “enemy” and should be refused entry.

      Reply to Comment
    21. Empress Trudy

      This wound up being a bust as well. A hundred or so people who their own money to fly to Israel and……? Yeah.

      Reply to Comment
    22. I wonder what sort of tourism exists in Palestine. What is there exactly to see there, or what is the interest of these people to go?

      I find it absurd that because some petty principles, Israel should allow a corridor through its country to these messengers. They are boring. Do even the Palestinians care?

      Reply to Comment
    23. Weinstein Henry

      Euh, that’s what I suggested to Max, Sam: Corsica’s separatists, who are French citizens, have nothing to do with the main topic of Noam’s post, which is the way the Israeli state controls, without annexing them, the Palestinian territories.
      Tag: the Situation vs the Occupation.

      Reply to Comment
    24. Zelig

      Sam Smith
      ‘The Palestinians, however, are rather unambiguous about their plans: they want two Palestinian states’.
      Please do provide evidence for this sweeping statement.
      The present evidence is that the Palestinians are going to the United Nations in September not for two Palestinian states but for recognition of a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders, including East Jerusalem as its capital. Israel is trying its very best to prevent this. It is not the Palestinians that are trying to destroy Israel but rather that Israel is trying by every means possible to undermine the possibility of any sort of Palestinian state at all.

      Reply to Comment
    25. Holden

      This comment was removed for offensive language

      Reply to Comment
    26. NormanF

      This is a vicious lie. Israel is not preventing Arabs from going abroad. Or preventing foreign visitors to meet them. They just can’t enter Israel if they do so.

      Every country rewards its friends and punishes its enemies. Israel is no different.

      Reply to Comment
    27. Right Wing Zionist

      “Israel
      Fact they control every entry/exit point
      into the West Bank.”(Kate)

      Yes in order to stop savage attacks against Israeli civilians by a people (the Arabs) who never gave up their dream of destroying the state of the Jewish people and replace it with yet another state for the Arab people.

      “Fact they refuse entry to anyone admitting
      they wish to travel to the West Bank”(Kate)

      Yes and that is exactly as it should be if it affects the security of Israel. When they deem that it does not affect the security people are allowed to travel to Judea and Samaria (or the West Bank as you call it).

      “Fact they never admit that is their policy”(Kate)

      That is not a fact. See my above comments.

      “Do you see the difference?”(Kate)

      Yes, Saudi Arabia is a racist thuggish supremacist Arab state and they are not ashamed of it. Israel is a democracy that is intent on enforcing security for their citizens from attacks by racist thuggish supremacist Arabs who want to destroy the Jewish state.

      “At least Saudi has the balls to admit it”(Kate)

      Not only do they admit it, they boast about their thuggishness and people like you seem to admire them for it.

      Reply to Comment
    28. max

      Henry, t’es peut-être trop jeune…
      In 2006-2007 no one who would ask for a French visa stating s/he wants to visit free Corsica would’ve been allowed to enter.

      Reply to Comment
    29. Empress Trudy

      The ‘author’ has clearly never been to the Alleby border checkpoint with Jordan. On any given day, 7 days a week, upward of 1500 Arabs from the west bank who ALREADY hold Jordanian passports are denied entry into Jordan BY Jordan border police. The pronouncement that somehow Israel controls Jordans borders is retarded rubbish.

      Reply to Comment
    30. weinstein henry

      Hum, Max, j’ai 51 ans. La Corse, ça n’a rien à voir avec les Palestiniens. Mais c’est pas le sujet.
      What I said is very simple: Corsica is part of France since a very long time, so when you ask for a French visa to visit France, you just have to explain why you want to go in France.
      If you are a clever terrorist or criminal, you will say: tourism.
      But even if you really want to state you want to visit “Free Corsica” – being a foreign citizen without criminal & terrorist connections & digital data – no French official would take it seriously.
      The problem with ‘Corsican separatists’ has a lot more to do with Mafia than politics.

      Reply to Comment
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