120 ‘Flytilla’ Activists Arrested, Sent to ‘Detention Camps’

July 10th, 2011 - by admin

Antiwar.com & The Jerusalem Post & Agence France-Presse & Haaretz – 2011-07-10 00:21:08


120 Foreign Activists Detained by Israel
Associated Press / USA Today

JERUSALEM (July 9, 2011) — Some 120 foreign activists were being held in Israeli jails Saturday, awaiting possible deportation, after arriving at Tel Aviv’s airport over the weekend as part of a solidarity mission with the Palestinians, a government official said.

Unidentified demonstrators cut through a small section of Israel’s separation barrier fence, at a pro-Palestinian protest attended by Israeli, Palestinian and foreign demonstrators Saturday.

Others who managed to get through Israeli border controls traveled to the West Bank where some joined a demonstration against Israel’s separation barrier. Associated Press Television footage showed some foreign activists, along with Palestinians, cutting through the barrier’s barbed wire fence with clippers. Another protester started a small brush fire.

The Israeli military said about 150 protesters gathered near the barrier just north of Jerusalem. Some threw rocks at soldiers who fired tear gas to disperse them, the army said. There were no reports of serious injuries.

One of the activists, Michael Berg, 36, from St. Louis, said he attended the protest but was not involved in vandalism. Organizers said a small number of the foreigners who participated in cutting the fence were among those who had flown in on the solidarity mission, while others had arrived in the West Bank previously.

The Palestinians oppose the barrier as a land grab because it frequently juts into the West Bank, swallowing up Palestinian farmland and properties. Israel says the structure, built in response to a wave of suicide bombings a decade ago, is a security measure.

Israel had previously expressed concern about the “fly-in,” saying it feared some of those trying to reach the West Bank would engage in violence.

Initially, some 600 foreign activists planned to fly to Tel Aviv over the weekend for what they said would be a peaceful weeklong mission in the West Bank. Israel controls all access to the West Bank, and those trying to reach it have to enter through Israeli-held crossings.

Israel took a series of measures to try to avert the mass arrival and weed out those it considered troublemakers. Israeli authorities, using information gathered on Facebook, Twitter and other websites, compiled a blacklist with more than 300 names and asked foreign airlines to block those on the list from boarding Tel Aviv-bound flights. Hundreds more landed at Tel Aviv’s airport over the weekend, and more than 400 were questioned by police, said Interior Ministry spokeswoman Sabine Haddad.

Of those, 130 were detained and six sent home immediately, she said. Another four signed forms promising not to participate in violent activities and were granted entry to Israel, she said. Haddad said all those currently in detention were offered to be released if they signed the forms.

The remaining 120 were being held at two Israeli jails while they weighed their options, Haddad said. It was not clear when they would be deported.

Palestinian organizers of the “Welcome to Palestine” movement estimated that anywhere from 12 to 100 foreigners had managed to reach the West Bank through the fly-in, with others expected in the coming days. Some traveled in earlier in the week while others appeared to have concealed their intentions.

Berg said he was not questioned at the airport and speculated that was because he did not say he wanted to “visit Palestine” as others had done. “I am a Jew and what is happening here is wrong,” Berg told The Associated Press. “I don’t want what is happening in the West Bank to be done in my name,” he said.

Mustafa Barghouti, a Palestinian organizer of “Welcome to Palestine,” said the movement planned additional gatherings throughout the West Bank.

“Israel is stupid. They believe they will stop us,” he said. “We are in touch with foreign activists who will join us in coming days and weeks. We will continue throughout the summer.”

The activists are trying to draw attention to life in the West Bank under Israeli occupation, including travel restrictions. Israel controls all access to the territory, which it captured in the 1967 Mideast war and which the Palestinians hope to make part of an independent state, along with Gaza and east Jerusalem.

Israel has been jittery about the arrival of foreign activists since a deadly naval raid on an international flotilla that tried to break Israel’s blockade of the Gaza Strip last year. Recent anti-Israel protests, including deadly clashes along the frontiers with Lebanon and Syria, have added to those concerns.

At any given time, hundreds of foreigners, including activists and aid workers, are in the West Bank.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.

Flytilla Blocked:
RT Talks to Only Gaza Activist who ‘Slipped through Net’

Russia Today TV

Mass Detentions as Israel Declares ‘Flytilla’ Over
Jason Ditz / AntiWar.com

(July 8, 2011) — Long a popular tourist attraction in the West, Israel is struggling tonight to defend the mass detention of passengers who flew into the Ben-Gurion International Airport and are suspected of being “pro-Palestinian activists.”

Termed the “flytilla,” a number of activists planned to fly into Israel to visit Palestinian families in the occupied territories. The Israeli government quickly responded with a list of 342 “unwanted” passengers who were to be barred from visiting the nation.

But blocking the passengers wasn’t enough. Soon, Israel started arresting people on arriving flights it believed to be involved, and has sent at least 64 of them to “detention centers” where they will be held until their eventual deportation.

It seems that the massive campaign against passengers and the summary arrests are drawing far more attention to the issue than a few hundred activists could have done in the first place. Still, Prime Minister Netanyahu defended the move, insisting the government has a fundamental right to block “provocateurs” from entry.

Israel’s Interior Ministry:
Airlines Must Keep Activists Off Planes

Tovah Lazaroff, HerbKeinon and Yaakov Lappin / The Jerusalem Post

Every country has the “basic right” to bar “provocateurs,” Netanyahu declares; terror victims say they’ll stage counter-demonstration.

TEL AVIV (July 8, 2011) — The Interior Ministry has told foreign airlines they are required under Israeli law to remove “pro-Palestinian radicals” from flights bound for Israel.

It sent the letter in advance of the anticipated “Flightilla,” in which about 700 pro-Palestinian activists, mostly from Europe, were expected to arrive at Ben-Gurion Airport on Friday on routine flights throughout the day.

Already on Thursday, Malev Hungarian Airlines barred around 20 activists from boarding a flight from Paris to Budapest on the first leg of their journey to Tel Aviv, according to French activists involved in the “Welcome to Palestine” event on Friday.

A letter from the Interior Ministry to the airlines provided to The Jerusalem Post by the activists said 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.”

It added that it was providing the airlines with a list of known activists and would be updating the list. There were some names that would not be known in advance and thus some passengers might be denied entry once they landed at Ben-Gurion, the ministry said.

It was signed by Amnon Shmueli, the chief of the Immigration Authority in the Interior Ministry.

A French spokesman for Welcome to Palestine, Nicolas Shahshahani, said that some 20 activists had been barred from boarding a flight from Paris to Budapest.

“When they showed up at the counter a clerk said, ‘We cannot register you by order of the Israeli government,’ and they showed us the letter,” Shahshahani said.

The French Foreign Ministry issued a statement on Thursday saying it was “very worried” about possible incidents at Ben-Gurion as a result of the planned air flotilla.

“The Israeli authorities, who have exclusive judicial authority concerning entrance and exit from Israeli territory, have declared that they will not allow entrance to people representing a potential threat to public order,” the statement said.

French Foreign Ministry officials met with one of the groups involved in the initiative — EuroPalestine — and warned it about the dangers posed by the operation, including the possibility that those involved would be jailed in Israel if they refused deportation. Travel advisories have been issued by the ministry in Paris.

French Embassy officials in Israel had been mobilized to give assistance if needed to any French citizen, according to the statement. The assistance could be more effective if the French authorities had names of those who were involved in the operation, something the organizers refused to provide, the French ministry said.

The French Foreign Ministry also said that Paris was committed to “freedom of movement into and out of the West Bank,” which it said needed to be accessible to foreign visitors.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu rejected criticism on Thursday during a visit to Bulgaria that Israel was overacting in preparation for the expected arrival of airborne protesters.

“Every country has the basic right to prevent the infiltration of provocateurs into its territory,” Netanyahu said during a press conference in Sofia alongside Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov.

“Right now there is information of a few hundred people who want to disturb the peace,” he continued. “I don’t know with what level of violence, but we have very reliable information that they want to come and disturb the peace and cause a provocation. We are taking the necessary steps.”

The government came under criticism on Thursday for dispatching hundreds of police to the airport in expectation of the protesters’ arrival.

“If we didn’t take action, we would be asked afterward why we didn’t act,” Netanyahu said. “At the end of the day, it is the government and the relevant authorities who have to prepare. It is okay that all the time we are being questioned and criticized and checked.

“In the final analysis, in the running of the country and protecting its borders and the public order, we are operating according to the rules.”

Netanyahu added that there was no “siege” of Gaza, and that if the protesters truly wanted to “free Gaza” they would work to free it of Hamas. There was a “controlled closure” of Gaza to prevent the smuggling of arms and ammunition, the prime minister said.

“It is possible to transfer everything into Gaza, just not arms and ammunition,” he said. “The number of missiles that have been transferred there in the last half year through tunnels can be brought in on one ship, and that can’t be allowed to happen,” Netanyahu said.

Israel was concerned about the level of cooperation between Hamas and Iran, and the international community needed to mobilize to prevent the latter’s support of terrorist organizations, the prime minister said.

Welcome to Palestine spokespeople have consistently rejected any link between their action, which is targeted at helping Palestinians in the West Bank, and that of the Gaza flotilla. They have said that their sole goal is to support Palestinian statehood and to highlight the lack of freedom and movement in and out of the West Bank.

They say theirs is a nonviolent act of resistance. “We are peaceful activists,” one of the activists, an American from New York named Laura Durkay, said.

Durkay was already in England and planned to board a plane for Ben-Gurion on Friday.

She believed she might be barred from boarding the flight, because she has been quite vocal about her planned participation.

“I have been using my name, because I do not have anything to hide. I am hoping that my right to free movement will be allowed by all the countries through which I am traveling,” she said.

The Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem, meanwhile, sent consular representatives on Thursday to the command post the police set up at Ben-Gurion Airport. They will deal with the various consular issues that might arise from the arrest and deportation of foreign nationals.

Israeli activists also plan to be at the airport on Friday, but say they’ll keep a low profile.

Members of the Almagor Terror Victims Association also plan to converge on Ben-Gurion on Friday morning and confront any incoming pro-Palestinian activists with pictures of family members who had been murdered by terrorists.

“We will tell them that Israel lost 1,400 victims to terrorism,” Almagor chief Meir Indor told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday. “We will tell them that when Jews are killed they don’t care, but when Israel responds they condemn it. This is the continuance of known European anti-Semitism, disguised as care for Palestinians. We will tell them they are supporting the narrative of terrorism.

“We are a group made up of parents who lost children to terrorism, and people who were wounded in terrorist attacks, like myself,” Indor added. “It is important to create a civilian response to [the pro-Palestinian activists’] media show, and not just let the police spokesman deal with them alone. We need to represent the Israeli public.”

Almagor has not yet received a reply from police after asking for permission to hold a demonstration at the airport, but Indor says the group will go ahead nonetheless.

“We hope several dozen [of our] people will arrive, but we don’t know exactly how many will come. We also hope we are joined by others,” he said.

Jerusalem Post staff contributed to this report.

Israel Trying to Stop pro-Palestinian ‘Flytilla’
Agence France-Presse

BEN GURION AIRPORT, Israel (July 8, 2011) — Israel on Friday took the offensive in its battle to prevent hundreds of pro-Palestinian activists from arriving at its main airport by discouraging airlines from flying them, an official said.

“Israel has given airlines a list of 342 unwanted people, warning them that they will be immediately turned back at the expense of the companies,” Israeli immigration spokeswoman Sabine Hadad told AFP.

Following the warning, “the companies have already refused to take on board around 200 of these passengers,” she said, adding that two US activists who arrived overnight were sent back to the United States.

The two American women had originally been involved in a scuppered bid by activists to sail to the Gaza Strip on a 10-boat flotilla in defiance of an Israeli naval blockade of the Palestinian coastal territory.

Some 50 airline passengers who described themselves as “pro-Palestinian” were prevented from embarking on a flight to Israel from Geneva airport on Friday, officials said, prompting flight delays.

“This morning passengers for an easyJet flight were prevented from embarking,” airport spokeswoman Aline Yazgin told AFP, adding she did not know why they had been prevented from boarding.

She said that as a result several people belonging to a French group of pro-Palestinians had tried to get past airport security doors, resulting in authorities temporarily shutting down boarding areas.

At Roissy airport in France, at least nine activists were prevented from boarding a flight of Hungarian carrier Malev to Tel Aviv via Budapest.

“Their reservation was cancelled at the request of Israeli authorities who have drawn up a list of undesirable persons,” an airport source said. Organizers of the “Welcome to Palestine” campaign, which some have called the “flytilla,” had said up to 800 activists were to fly in to Ben Gurion airport on Friday in a peaceful mission to visit Palestinian families.

In a statement on Friday they condemned the Israeli pressure on airlines and threatened legal action.

“We call on all airline companies not to accept such provocative, blackmailing, and illegal actions by the Israeli government,” it said. “Visitors travelling between countries have rights under international law and bilateral travel agreements,” it added. “Those who had reservations cancelled will exercise their right of protest including bringing legal cases in their own countries.”

The organizers were planning to hold a press conference on Friday in the West Bank town of Bethlehem.

Hundreds of police are on standby at the airport near Tel Aviv, but no incidents have been reported so far on Friday.

Israel’s tourism ministry said it would mount a charm offensive over the weekend at the airport, where thousands of tourists were expected to arrive.

“Tourists will be greeted by the ministry’s staff who will hand out flowers and tourism information and who will provide general assistance according to individual needs,” it said in a statement, adding that Tourism Minister Stas Miseznikov would visit the airport on Friday.

“The ministry of tourism will make sure to receive tourists respectfully, sending the message that Israel is a safe country and an attractive tourism destination,” it said. “Dealings with pro-Palestinian activists and the responsibility of the various security forces, should not affect the airport’s activities.”

(c) Copyright AFP

25 Pro-Palestinian Activists from Germany
Stopped upon Arrival in Israel

Zohar Blumenkrantz and Yaniv Kubovich / Haaretz

(July 8, 2011) — A group of 25 people suspected to be pro-Palestinian activists arrived at Ben-Gurion International Airport on Friday night, and were expected to be denied entry to Israel.

The suspected activists arrived on a Lufthansa flight from Frankfurt late Friday night, after their flight’s departure was delayed due to runway improvement work being conducted at Ben-Gurion International Airport on Friday evening from 19:00 to 22:00.

The activist aboard the plane were not on the list of 342 blacklisted passengers submitted by the Transportation Ministry to foreign airlines on Thursday, and as such were able to board the plane.

Earlier in the day, police called Friday’s operations at Ben-Gurion Airport “successful” as most of the activists were identified and taken for questioning during the afternoon hours.

Not including those passengers who arrived on the Lufthansa flight, a total of 310 arriving passengers were questioned by the Immigration and Population Authority. Sixty-nine of those passengers were found to be “fly-in” activists and were denied entry to Israel. The others were found to be regular tourists and were permitted entry.

At this time, four of the 69 activists have been deported to their home countries. The rest have been sent to detention facilities until they can be deported.

Ten of the activists arrived on an easyJet flight, while another 20 came on an Alitalia flight. The rest arrived on other flights.

Israel has thus far been successful in preventing the entry of 200 passengers wishing to come to Israel as part of the Welcome to Palestine campaign, which had organized a “fly-in” to the Middle East this weekend for solidarity visits in the Palestinian territories.

Israel Police estimate that the bulk of events related to the pro-Palestinian ‘fly-in’ have ended.

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