A civil rights group called on Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein on Thursday to
prosecute pro-Palestinian activists who come to Israel as part of the mass
“fly-in” or “flytilla” event scheduled for Sunday.
In their letter to
Weinstein, the Israel Law Center (Shurat Hadin) said those “flytilla” activists
who come to Israel would be acting in violation of Israeli law, including the
Penal Code, the Police Ordinance and Emergency Regulations.
estimate that between 500 and 1,000 activists will try to land in Israel on 20
flights from Western Europe and Turkey throughout Sunday, though organizers
estimate that closer to 2,000 people will attempt to arrive. While police view
the flytilla activists as hostile elements seeking to create provocations,
organizers of the event, also called “Welcome to Palestine,” have in turn
insisted that Israel is overreacting and that participants are peaceful
supporters of the Palestinians, who want to learn about the issue and
participate in nonviolent events.
According to Public Security Minister
Yitzhak Aharonovitch, should the activists manage to arrive in Israel, they will
be taken off the planes and denied entry. They will then be be placed in
temporary holding cells before being deported to their points of
However, in their letter to Weinstein, the Law Center argued this
plan of deporting activists without prosecuting them would not be in the best
interest of the Israeli public.
“It is in the public’s interests to deter
participants in the upcoming ‘flytilla’ from taking part in future ‘flytillas’,”
the Law Center told the attorney-general.
The Law Center said that it
believed a public announcement by the attorney-general that he intended to
prosecute all ‘flytilla’ activists (subject to exceptions based on discretion)
may cause at least some activists to reconsider participating in similar actions
in the future.
According to the Law Center, the activists could be in
violation of Article 194 of the Penal Code, which deals with causing a
disturbance in a public place and stipulates a maximum of three months in
prison, as well as Article 216, which deals with misconduct in a public place
and stipulates a maximum one month prison term.
The Law Center says the
activists could also be charged under the Penal Code with Prohibited Assembly
and Riot; with unlawful assembly under the Police Ordinance; with causing a
breach of the peace at Ben-Gurion Airport; trespassing in the airport while
violating public order; and deceiving border police and interior ministry
officials – all under the Emergency Regulations.
“No civilized country
would permit tens or hundreds of foreign nationals to enter its borders with the
freely-stated purpose of violating state order, laws and legal provisions, or in
order to promote an ideological position that challenges that state’s
sovereignty,” Law Center Director Nitsana Darshan-Leitner said on Thursday. “It
is inconceivable that Israel is the only state that allows this,” she said,
adding that the law center believes Israel’s decision to deport activists from
the 2010 Gaza Mavi Marmara flotilla ship without prosecuting them had resulted
in “significant damage to Israel’s policies and its image and in serious
injuries to IDF soldiers.”
The Law Center asked Weinstein to provide
urgent notification ahead of Sunday regarding whether he intends to prosecute
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Yaakov Lappin contributed to this report.