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Activists reach Israel in new 'flytilla' bid; dozens refused entry

Activists are flying to Tel Aviv in a coordinated campaign to challenge Israel with a declared intention to visit Palestine. Israeli security is on alert, and by Saturday, 60 percent of the 1,500 activists who sought to join the ‘Welcome to Palestine’ initiative were informed that their tickets were cancelled. Israel also promised to arrest and deport those who did make it to Ben Gurion Airport. +972 blogger Mya Guarnieri was embedded with some of the activists on a flight from Geneva. 

Geneva-Tel Aviv — By 8:00 PM Israel time Sunday night, at least 56 people in the “Welcome to Palestine” initiative were refused entry into Israel on Sunday after stating their intention to visit Bethlehem, according to Israeli Police spokeswoman Luba Samri.

Israeli protester being detained by police, holding a drawing by a Palestinian child. (photo: Activestills)

At least 10 people were arrested at the Ben Gurion Airport – nine Israelis and one international protester. As of Sunday night, four of the Israelis had been released. The rest, according to Samri, remained under investigation.

Two of the Israelis were taken away by police in the arrivals hall Sunday afternoon, one after pulling out a sign reading, “Welcome to Palestine.” She was heckled by a right-wing man who called on her to “go back to Syria.” He was not detained.

Right-wing protesters maintained a presence in the arrivals hall for much of the day.

My easyJet flight from Geneva landed as planned on Sunday at around noon. Activists disembarked from the plane, and were offered, along with other passengers, flowers and water by Ministry of Tourism representatives as they headed to passport control. At least five activists from that flight were escorted away by Israeli security.

Organizers of the campaign confirmed that a number of activists managed to board their European flights on Sunday without problems. However, last-ditch interventions were made to prevent “Welcome to Palestine” participants from reaching Tel Aviv. Before the easyJet flight took off from Geneva, local airport employees pulled two people off of the plane, both confirmed to have been blacklisted by Israel. When asked why he is enforcing the blacklist, one easyJet representative responded, “Ask Israel why it made it.”

Lubna Amar, a sales assistant who lives in Lyon, France, said she had joined the “Welcome to Palestine” campaign because, “We have a right to [travel] to Palestine freely. [Palestinians under Israeli occupation] are like prisoners. It’s not acceptable.”

Organizers said that more than half the easyJet flight was initially comprised of activists, many of them French citizens in their 20s. According to media reports, Lufthansa, Jet2 and Air France were among other airlines that cancelled the tickets of a number of passengers, in compliance with the blacklist provided by Israel. Activists were also reportedly stopped from boarding a flight from Istanbul to Tel Aviv.

It was not immediately clear exactly how many activists managed to board their flights without incident. In Geneva, I saw one group being held for questioning at passport control. They confirmed that they were “trying to reach Palestine” and did not appear to make the flight.

"Go to Syria." MK Michael Ben Ari (L) next to a right-wing activist at Ben Gurion airport on Sunday. (photo: Activestills)

The activists have been invited by 25 Palestinian civil society organizations to spend the 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 left-wing activists were at the airport on Sunday morning to greet them, as were a group of right-wing activists, MK Michael Ben Ari among them.

The goal of the campaign is to call attention to Israel’s control over all entries into the West Bank, including into areas – like Bethlehem – officially controlled by the Palestinian Authority. Many tourists and activists generally refrain from mentioning the West Bank when questioned at the airport about their planned visits, but the decision to declare Bethlehem as a destination is central to the strategy of this initiative.

My colleague Dimi Reider published yesterday the letter that the activists were to receive upon landing in Israel. It lambasts them for failing to protest what it calls the “real problems of the region” – listing the situation in Syria and Iran as examples. The letter concludes by wishing the reader a “nice flight.” In an indication of how Israel seeks to present the initiative to the world, Ofir Gendelman, a spokesperson for the Prime Minister’s Office, tweeted Sunday, “The #airflotilla2 provocation was conceived by extremist Islamic+anti-Israel organizations who object to peace&call for Israel’s destruction.”

Last year’s “Welcome to Palestine” initiative, meant to highlight Israel’s control over the Palestinian territories, 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.

Government sources reported to +972 that they expect a small number of additional “Welcome to Palestine” activists to arrive on Monday morning.

Noa Yachot contributed to this report. 

Related posts:
Exclusive: ‘Political contract’ required to enter Israel?
Reframing non-violent resistance: An act of moral piracy
IDF, police remove Palestinian “Freedom riders” from Israeli bus
More than 100 arrested at TLV airport, moved to Israeli prison
“Air Flotilla” successful in exposing Israeli blockade of West Bank
Greek Coast Guard stop US boat from setting sail for Gaza

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    1. David

      hahaha/”boo hoo”

      Reply to Comment
    2. Henry Weinstein

      Repeat (see my previous comment on the previous ‘Flytilla’ post by Mya, April 15 12:47 am):

      It’s more than hypocritical to pretend that planning to arrive in Ben Gurion airport, Tel Aviv Israel, with posters & signs saying “Welcome in Palestine” is “an intiative meant to highlight Israel’s control over the Palestinian territories”.
      Ask Hamas for the meaning, folks.
      The only result you will get with such sensational tactics, Mya, is to bring more votes for the Israeli Far Right.
      That’s why I’m not amused by the ‘Flytilla’ happening, folks.

      Reply to Comment
    3. XYZ

      The ultimate goal of the Palestinian Revolution-
      to find the perfect public relations stunt.

      Reply to Comment
    4. tla

      I’m still trying to understand: if you want to come to Palestine – what do you want from Israel? Go to Palestine.

      If you do want to pass through the Israeli territory, then its beyond me why you expect them to just let you will you piss on them. Israel is a sovereign country, and they have the right to deny entry to anyone who isn’t an Israeli citizen – just like any other country.

      Reply to Comment
    5. caden

      What bothers me about this whole thing is not these idiots. What bothers me is that this whole thing is a bullshit provocation in order to get publicity. And Israel is falling for it hook, line, and sinker. There had to be a better way to defuse this and make that woman in the picture look even more like the moron she is.

      And, don’t call your self a reporter anymore Mya. That means someone who recounts the news in an impartial manner. If you were ever that your not anymore.

      Reply to Comment
    6. palestinian

      How do those activists threaten Israel ? I suuggest to build the airport in Jericho so Israel wont be “threatened” by pro-justice activists who flood Palestine yearly.I know someone will object building an airport for “security” reasons,just like building the wall for security (stealing) reasons.

      Reply to Comment
    7. Itzchak

      It’s nice to see another very stupid and meaningless demonstration deflated. These people are useful idiots.

      Reply to Comment
    8. Marlin

      Israel has given this mission publicity by it’s fear-mongering.

      Reply to Comment
    9. Jack

      Israeli delegitimization from israeli government itself.

      Reply to Comment
    10. TLA:

      I’m still trying to understand: if you want to come to Palestine – what do you want from Israel? Go to Palestine.

      If you do want to pass through the Israeli territory, then its beyond me why you expect them to just let you will you piss on them.

      How should someone enter Palestine without entering Israeli territory?

      Reply to Comment
    11. Richard Witty

      “Welcome to Palestine” unfurled in the Tel Aviv airport is careless, (read stupid) dissent.

      It takes dissent back to the old question of whether the goal of dissent is to remove Israel from the map, or to object to policies and practices.

      Reply to Comment
    12. annie

      love the illiterate with his hypoerotica sign! never in my wildest dreams did i imagine this would be such a successful action. the first flytilla didn’t receive anywhere near as much coverage as this. it’s hit every news outlet. it sure blows the lid off the idea the PA has any authority over who enters palestine. when i first became an activist for palestine most people were very unfamiliar with the way the israel’s occupation controlled every aspect of palestinian life but that seems to be changing, i think in part due to the fact israel is spending so much money to fight what they call the ‘deligitimization’. anyway, i agree with canden, israel fell for it hook line and sinker. great activism. thanks for the report mya.

      Reply to Comment
    13. caden

      Annie, I know has a mondoweiss regular your pining away for the destruction of Israel but this isn’t has big as Phil and his merry band thinks. The big story is Spain sliding into the economic abyss and a secret service agent deciding not to pay the call girl. Most people don’t hang on piece of news out of Gaza or count Jews like you do.

      Reply to Comment
    14. Anthony

      This must be a really expensive form of protest for those involved, no?
      If you say you’re going to Palestine and then get sent back does Israel reimburse you for your air fare? What if they cancel the flight you are on?

      Reply to Comment
    15. caden

      The Saudi royal family can pick up the whole bill for this by cutting back on blond hookers for a day or two.

      Reply to Comment
    16. Mark

      Tel Aviv is in Israel as recognized by the UN and accordingly, the signs at the airport state: Welcome to Israel. Do you have a problem with this?

      Reply to Comment
    17. Dhalgren

      @Henry Weinstein
      Can you present your argument without conflating groups that obviously are very different? As per your comment to the previous article, I find analogies to hypothetical “Welcome to Germany” neo-Nazi activists uninformative. Neither do I have any appreciation for your connection of peaceful activism to Mohamed Mehra. As for how Iranian media, Arab media and Hamas will interpret the message, isn’t that basis for criticism of those particular groups, not the activists? Demanding activists account for all possible interpretations of their message sounds like part of an argument for government censorship.

      Reply to Comment
    18. HAYA

      I really don’t like if every activist who care and supports Palestine always called moron/stupid by the pro-israelis. If they are that stupid, why would you israel as a state so terrify and paranoid for what the activists will trying to do. If you really believe that they’re moron, then let them be.. What wrong with you israel as a very democracy state so afraid for the activists that you called have no brain. Why does israel so panic with the activists if they are really that stupid. Only a very lower than stupid people whose afraid with another stupid people.

      Reply to Comment
    19. zayzafuna

      While I always approve of deligitimization of the zionist entity, the zionists won this round. If you want to go to Palestine, fly to Amman, take the taxis and go to Palestine. These activists indirectly supported the zionists by purchasin drinks and snacks at the zionist airport. Lose, lose

      Reply to Comment
    20. Shaun

      By tomorrow this will be old news and no one will care, but keep telling yourselves that you are winning…

      Reply to Comment
    21. tla

      Joseph: How should someone enter Palestine without entering Israeli territory?

      Good question. I looked at the map. Something you should sometimes do as well.

      You can enter Gaza through Egypt, without ever passing an inch of Israeli land.

      You can enter the West Bank through the King Hussein bridge, without ever passing an inch of Israeli land as well.

      It is true that King Hussein (Allenby) bridge is controlled by Israel, but it is also true that everyone who actually wants to get to Palestinian cities – passes there without a problem.

      Only moron “activist demonstrators” who are more interested in cameras than deeds go through the Ben Gurion airport.

      And they don’t care about facts, just as you don’t.

      Reply to Comment
    22. Henry Weinstein

      @ Dhalgren
      Dear smokescreen
      My answer is very simple:
      Open your eyes
      Read what is written
      Think about the message
      > Repeat

      Reply to Comment
    23. Dhalgren

      @Henry Weinstein
      Yeah, I get what meaning you are reading into it. It’s not that difficult to see. What is more difficult to see is what factual basis you have for presenting that interpretation as original intent. I want proof, not presumption. I’m sure we both get enough of that from politicians.

      Reply to Comment
    24. Henry Weinstein

      @ Dhalgren
      “What factual basis”?
      Very simple again, I’m French. See Mya’s presentation of Floptilla’s ‘volunteers’: they are all French. I don’t live in an ivory tower. Being a resolute opponent of the present Israeli leadership & policy doesn’t mean I’m blind considering the BDS & Anti-Normalization propagandist strategy. In other words, they tried – like they always do -to recruit me, another useful idiot screaming he or she is ashamed by Israel, claiming he or she is anti-zionist. But I’m not that stupid. Me too I wanted proof. So I debated with them, and with pro-Erezt Yisrael hardcore supporters. And I was rejected by all of them!! Because I didn’t believe their one-sided propaganda, in short.
      For instance, you think what I wrote about people who ‘understand’ Mohamed Mehra is something intellectual. Factually I know someone living in Toulouse, an artist like me, who is connected with all the ‘Death To Israel’s people. He ‘understands’ Mohamed Mehra, being brainwashed by Islamist propaganda sponsored by oil money. He likes me, like some Germans liked some Jews – once upon a time when my Dad was an Untermensch.
      “What factual basis”?
      Zoroastrian faith, I like their credo: think right, speak right, act right.
      I don’t trust intellectuals, Dhalgren. We must think about the consequences of their ideas. Before it’s too late.

      Reply to Comment
    25. David44


      You claim:

      “You can enter the West Bank through the King Hussein bridge, without ever passing an inch of Israeli land as well.

      It is true that King Hussein (Allenby) bridge is controlled by Israel, but it is also true that everyone who actually wants to get to Palestinian cities – passes there without a problem.”

      Some people – indeed, some quite prominent people – have problems when they try to enter Palestinian cities via the Allenby Bridge. See, for example, http://www.haaretz.com/news/national/noam-chomsky-denied-entry-into-israel-and-west-bank-1.290701 , or http://electronicintifada.net/content/entry-denied-deporting-witnesses-israeli-occupation-and-unilateralism/6050 , or http://www.ramallahquakers.org/newsletter/newsletter.php?id=20 (scroll down to the case of Terry Rempel). These are just a handful of examples: there are plenty of others.

      Reply to Comment
    26. Shaun

      Wow, less than 24 hours all major news sources have stories about the “flytilla”

      Looking forward to many more of these success stories.

      Reply to Comment
    27. tla

      @David – while those were denied admission, most are not.
      But even those didn’t even think of getting to Tel Aviv on their way, did they? So why this flotilla is going to Tel Aviv? Want to make a point? Go to the King Hussein bridge, at least then you’ll have some validity in your claims.
      I’ll reiterate what I said before: ISRAEL HAD FULL RIGHT TO DO WHAT IT DID, JUST LIKE ANY OTHER SOVEREIGN COUNTRY. The claim of these people that they’re going to Palestine is irrelevant, because they were not denied entry to Palestine (as those in your example), but to Israel. So this whole mess is a plain publicity stunt of useful idiots who have nothing better to do with their spring break. And frankly, I’ve seen enough of this stupid kids here in the US, and I understand perfectly well why Israelis wouldn’t want them in their country, whatever their final destination may be.
      Had they actually went to Palestine, we could have a discussion, but since they went to Israel – it has nothing to do with Palestinians, and has everything to do with the Israeli sovereignty, which should not be doubt by anyone.

      Reply to Comment
    28. tla

      @David – Re Chomsky, if I understand correctly, an apology was issued as he was denied entry to Israel which he had no intentions of visiting. I do despise him for his opinions (even though he’s a brilliant scientist), but he should have been admitted, and Israelis admitted their mistake in this case. The other links you brought only mentioned very vague claims which I believe had nothing to do with the reality, so I have no comment on them, I see it as a typical propaganda.

      Reply to Comment
    29. annie

      gee caden, you’ve got a bee in your bonnet today. this “destruction of Israel” meme is like the gift that keeps on giving for you and your rightwing ilk isn’t it. (or are you another of those uber oh so left liberals like dershowitz/do tell) can you trademark it? it’s all yours btw, i don’t advocate the destruction of anything, why should i make an exception for israel? transformation is the name of the game.

      Reply to Comment
    30. XYZ

      It is fascinating to watch things like this. In spite of the fact that Arabs/Muslims are being slaughtered at this very moment in Syria, that is not where the “action” is for activists of this type. It is particularly interesting since many are Arabs/Muslims themselves.
      On the one hand, we are always told that “All Arabs Are Brothers, All Muslims Love One Another”, yet fail to see any mass mobilizations against what is going on in Syria among their brother Muslims and Arabs in other countries. Same with the slaughter in Iraq, same with the slaughter that occurred in Algeria , and same with that which occurred in Lebanon.
      One can explain away the lack of demostrations in the authoritarian Arab/Muslim countries because the governments there always feared large-scale demonstrations over such an issue may get out of hand and be turned against the regime in power, but how does this explain the lack of protests in places like Paris or London where large Arab/Muslim populations are found and there is complete freedom to demonstrate.
      It is easy to understand why some may choose to join this protest in Israel….one can have some excitement and adventure without facing any real danger, whereas going to Damascus to protest may be impossible or fatal, but still, we must ask…why the lack of interest by the Arab/Muslim world with what is going on in Syria.
      The conclusion I have come to is that apparently the Arab/Muslim world is basically indifferent to what is happening to their brothers in other countries, in and of themselves, but they do get excited because they feel that what Israel is supposedly doing to the Palestinians is an insult to THEM. They really don’t care what happens to the Palestinians as such, but Israel’s existence and actions are viewed as a personal affront to the pride of the Arabs/Muslims in other countries. Since what Assad is doing is not an affront to the pride of these other Arabs/Muslims, they are indifferent to it, possibly thinking “If I were Assad, I would do the same thing”. Same with the slaughter in the other Arab/Muslim countries I mentioned. In other words, the protest against Israel is a matter of PRIDE, not of human rights which doesn’t seem to mobilize the larger Arab/Muslim world in other venues.

      Reply to Comment
    31. the other joe

      TLA, foreigners cannot enter Gaza from Egypt. Even if they could, that does not help with entering the West Bank.

      Have you ever tried crossing Allenby to the West Bank? The idea that it is not run by Israel is absurd http://www.iaa.gov.il/Rashat/en-US/Borders/Alenbi/AbouttheTerminal/

      And whilst it exits into PA territory, the idea that you can enter any Palestinian place without crossing another IDF checkpoint is also absurd

      Reply to Comment
    32. Jack

      I think we all can agree that when pro-israeli gov. people on this site bring up arab, muslims, antisemitism, other conflicts as their main argument against criticism against Israel, you know they are on the bottom looking for arguments.

      Reply to Comment
    33. Shlomo Krol

      This whole story, as everything, must be understood in context.

      An occupying power can prevent those it believes pose threat to security from entering the occupying territory, there’s nothing in the international law which would prevent it.

      The problem is that “regular” occupation is temporary by its nature, it is dictated by security, military, political considerations. The Israeli occupation somehow goes along with the colonization. Colonization is permanent by its nature.

      Israel wants to have it both ways: to act as if it’s a temporary occupation when it is convenient and as if it were permanent colonization in other cases, when it fits its interests.

      Hence all this absurd rhetorics that the land is “liberated Jewish heartland” and at the same time that “Israel doesn’t want to rule other people”.

      If I invited friends from abroad and my government rejected their entry, I would have acted as a citizen to reverse this decision and would have acted against my government.

      Palestinians are denied this natural right and this denial is not temporary – the policy of colonization makes the end of this situation increasingly difficult.

      Such situation, which is very similar to apartheid, is absurd and inhumane, it is considered crime against humanity by international law (just as the policy of terrorism against civilians of the Palestinian armed organizations – there are no angels and devils in this conflict).

      Moreover, this situation endangers Israel itself.

      To sum up: if it were not for the settlements, the denial of the activists from reaching Palestine would be kosher. But in the context of the colonization, this is (rather small but very symbolic) crime of apartheid, one of many crimes of a criminal regime of apartheid.

      There are neither prospects for the Palestinians to have their own international airport and their own border control, nor means to influence foreign government and military which prevents their guests from arriving.

      Apartheid is humiliating its victims. But it is humiliating its perpetrators (us, Israelis), too.

      Reply to Comment
    34. Jack

      Its not the activists who embarres themselves. Now Israel use of collective punishment is paying back with lost revenue since their sweeping ban led to 40% of cancled flights for people who had nothing to do with these protests to begin with.


      “We have insulted hundreds of foreign citizens because of suspicions, and have given the other side a victory on a silver platter.”

      Reply to Comment
    35. David44


      You said:
      “The other links you brought only mentioned very vague claims which I believe had nothing to do with the reality”

      One of those other links provided an actual photograph of the “entry denied” stamp from the Allenby Bridge on the passport. The other provided an extremely detailed account with precise dates and circumstances of the refusal. Only someone who was determined to ignore any evidence which contradicted his fixed world-view could interpret those as “very vague claims … which had nothing to do with the reality”.

      Reply to Comment
    36. TLA

      @TheOtherJoe – yes I have. The problems with Egypt have nothing to do with Israel. From Israel standpoint, everyone who wants to enter Gaza should go through Egypt, and rightly so, what the foreigners can or cannot do in Egypt – take it with the Egyptians. They have the right to rule their own country just as much as the Israelis do.
      @David44 Do you want me to provide you a picture of a “Entry Denied” stamp made by a US government official? There are plenty of those stamped every day for numerous reasons. While the US government doesn’t bother to even give an explanation, I don’t see any outcry about that. Why are you complaining about Israel doing the same? I’m pretty sure they had their reasons. I believe them more than I believe the Pro-Palestinians. And even if they didn’t have valid reasons (valid for you that is), it is still their RIGHT. I do not understand why it is even a discussion. Its something so basic that I cannot comprehend how would people disagree on. Every country has a right to deny entry to anyone who’s not their citizen – why Israel cannot? When Palestinians become a country – they’ll guard their own borders, until then – you’ll have to either seek admission through the Israeli or the Egyptian crossings, no way around it and you better start dealing with it instead of crying like a baby whose toy has been taking away.

      Reply to Comment
    37. David44

      Don’t change the terms of the discussion. Your words were “everyone who actually wants to get to Palestinian cities – passes there [the Allenby bridge] without a problem”. So I proved to you that some people DO have a problem entering Palestinian cities via the Allenby bridge; I even offered a site with a photograph to demonstrate the point. You were factually wrong in your statement.

      But you for some reason don’t want to admit that you were factually wrong, and so you now suddenly change the argument and start talking about how Israel has the right to do it. As it happens, I never said otherwise: I didn’t express a view on that question one way or the other (all I was doing was correcting your factual mistake). YOU were the person who was talking about how the activists should have gone via the Allenby Bridge so that Israel wouldn’t have stopped them. If you think that the main point is “you’ll have to either seek admission through the Israeli or the Egyptian crossings, no way around it”, why did YOU bring up the Allenby Bridge in the first place?

      Reply to Comment
    38. max

      You’re right and TLA got carried away with a too absolute statement.
      However, the reasoning seems still sound: people who want to visit only the PA can, in most cases, avoid Israel’s main entry points and those who’re willing to visit the PA without making a fuss about their political motivation can – most often, that is, several hundred thousands a year – come through any Israeli port.
      Once you choose to come through Israel, you will be subject to restrictions as in most countries in the world. Note the ‘most’, as some – apparently well respected – countries in the region do apply racist criteria for entrance, and cultural/religious restrictions once you’re in. Of course, setting a regional benchmark isn’t in Israel’s favor 🙂
      In short, not much to complain about, apart from a rather unimaginative reaction from the Israeli govt.

      Reply to Comment
    39. TLA

      @David: “So I proved to you that some people DO have a problem entering Palestinian cities via the Allenby bridge; I even offered a site with a photograph to demonstrate the point. You were factually wrong in your statement.”
      True, I was factually wrong. Some people are denied entry.
      Nevertheless, it has nothing to do with the case of this flytilla, as they were denied entry to Israel.
      Their claim that they’re going to “Palestine” (a non-existent place) has no relevance, because they were going to ISRAEL.
      Next time, if they want to prove a point – they should go to the King Hussein bridge, and if denied entry – they’ll have a right to complain about something, just as Chomsky did. And as I already mentioned – Chomsky got an apology.
      Now, do you have anything constructive to add to this?

      Reply to Comment
    40. TLA

      @David, and to add to the point, there are hundreds of thousands of foreigners entering Israel every year, some of them go to the Palestinian territories, some don’t. The number of people denied entry to Israel is negligible, regardless of port of entry. Its just the loudness of their cries that matters. If they have “connections” with a pro-terrorist site like this – then it will be an issue. If they don’t – no-one cares.

      Reply to Comment
    41. max

      TLA, the California sea, sun and sand is supposed to soften your character 😀

      Reply to Comment
    42. TLA

      @MAX – SF Bay. Freezing cold, we’ve had a huge thunderstorm a couple of days ago, highly unusual. Got influenced by that, all the lightning and stuff, I guess:-)

      Reply to Comment
    43. max

      Keep strong, summer is coming and Hawaii is just around the corner!

      Reply to Comment
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