Pro-Palestinian activists arriving Sunday at Ben-Gurion Airport as part of the
anti- Israel fly-in dubbed the “flytilla” will be greeted with a sarcastic
letter noting that while they could have chosen to protest the brutality in
Syria, Iran and Gaza, they opted instead to protest against the “Middle East’s
“Dear activist,” starts the letter that will be
translated into a number of different languages for the participants in an event
formally being called “Welcome to Palestine.”
“We appreciate your
choosing to make Israel the object of your humanitarian concerns,” the letter
“We know there were many other worthy choices.”
plans to bar entry by some 2,000 activists from at least 15 different countries,
mostly in Europe, either by preventing them from boarding their flights or by
deporting them once they arrive.
The activists want to draw attention to
Israel’s practice of barring foreigners it believes could cause trouble by
engaging in pro-Palestinian activities during their visit.
The letter –
drawn up in the Prime Minister’s Office – noted, that the activists “could have
chosen to protest the Syrian regime’s daily savagery against its own people,
which has claimed thousands of lives.”
Alternatively, they could have
chosen to protest “the Iranian regime’s brutal crackdown on dissent and support
of terrorism throughout the world.” Or, if they simply had to come to this part
of the globe, they “could have chosen to protest Hamas rule in Gaza, where
terror organizations commit a double war crime by firing rockets at civilians
and hiding behind civilians.”
Instead, “you chose to protest against
Israel, the Middle East’s sole democracy, where women are equal, the press
criticizes the government, human rights organizations can operate freely,
religious freedom is protected for all and minorities do not live in fear.”
The letter concludes with a suggestion that the activists
first solve “the real problems of the region” and then “come back and share with
us your experience.”
In an indication that Israel will not let the
protesters in but will instead deport them back to their countries of origin,
the letter ends with the line: “Have a nice flight.”
Ministry officials said Saturday night that responsibility for dealing with the
flytilla was in the hands of the Public Security Ministry, which will be in
contact with the consulates of the countries whose nationals are to be barred
from entering the country.
The Foreign Ministry has over the past few
weeks been in discussions with its counterparts in capitals around the world,
explaining Israel’s position regarding the fly-in and making clear that those
coming to engage in provocative actions would not be given an entry
Israeli authorities circulated to the airlines the names of some
1,200 pro-Palestinian activists expected to participate, in the hope that the
companies would prevent them from boarding.
One official explained that
if someone flies into a country without the necessary visa or is not given that
visa when he or she lands, the responsibility – and expense – for flying the
person back falls on the airline.
Already on Wednesday, Amnon Shmueli,
who heads the Immigration Authority at Ben- Gurion Airport, sent a letter to all
airlines with a list of names of the people it believed were planning on
participating in flytilla, according to a document posted on its
The document said, “Due to statements of pro-Palestinian
radicals to arrive on commercial flights from abroad to disrupt order and
confront security forces at friction points, it was decided to deny their
“Attached is a list of passengers that are denied entry to
Israel. In light of the above mentioned, you are ordered not board them on your
flights,” the letter states.
“Failure to comply with this directive will
result in sanctions against the airlines.”
According to the website,
already as early as Tuesday a foreign visitor from Sweden who entered Israel
from Eilat was asked to sign a pledge not to be a member of a pro-Palestinian
organization, not to be in contact with any pro-Palestinian organizations and
not to participate in pro-Palestinian activities.
Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch confirmed Saturday night that Israel had asked
airlines not to board fly-in passengers.
“They acted pretty much
accordingly,” he said.
The public security minister, who is in charge of
Israel’s response to the flytilla, said a passenger plane with activists could
land in Israel as early as Saturday night.
“We’ve started initial
preparations tonight,” he said on Saturday.
“Tomorrow is the main day....
Clear instructions have been given to police, the interior minister... to
prevent provocations and not allow disturbances at Ben-Gurion
Those identified by Israel as provocateurs who manage to
circumvent the no-fly lists and land in Israel will be “isolated from the
central airport,” Aharonovitch said.
Activists who get past all of
Israel’s measures “will be arrested if they cause disturbances,” he
Two European airlines, Jet2.com and Lufthansa, told passengers on
Friday that they planned to comply with Israel’s demands, according to the
Welcome to Palestine website.
Jet2 advised passengers that Israel had
denied them entry and as such they might not be able to board their flights.
Lufthansa informed the passengers in question that their tickets had been
The pro-Palestinian website #Airflotilla2 uploaded a scanned
image of one of the tickets canceled by Lufthansa and reported that the same
notification had been sent to dozens of activists on Thursday, informing them
that their reservations had been canceled “by order of Israel.”
of unarmed police officers will guard the airport on Sunday, when anywhere from
500 to 1,000 activists try to land in Israel, according to police
Sunday is expected to be one of Israel’s busiest air travel
days, with some 45,000 passengers landing and taking off from
Central police district chief Cmdr. Bentsi Sao will oversee
the operation, which is aimed at ensuring routine at the
Palestinian activist Mazin Qumsiyeh, a professor at Bethlehem
University and one of the organizers of the event, said that Israel was only
harming itself with its “hysterical” reaction.
“Why do they want people
to lie to them at the airport?” he asked. “Why can’t they say they are coming to
visit us in Bethlehem?”
Jerusalem Post staff contributed to this report.