air flotilla police search airplane_311.
(photo credit: Israel Police)
The Israel Police will dispatch hundreds of officers to Ben-Gurion Airport on
Sunday to await pro-Palestinian activists who plan to arrive in
According to the police’s evaluations, between 500 and 1,000
activists will try to land in Israel on 20 flights from Western Europe and
Turkey throughout Sunday. Organizers estimate that closer to 2,000 people will
attempt to arrive. The French delegation alone has 600 participants for the
event, which has been dubbed the “fly-in” or the “flytilla.”
operation has been set up to deal with the activists, who police view as hostile
elements seeking to create provocations and disturbances and attract media
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.
Olivia Zemor, 63, who heads the French
delegation and plans to depart Paris for Ben-Gurion on Sunday morning with her
daughter Adele, 23, said those coming include women and children, some in
They range in age from nine to 83 and many of them have
never been to Israel or “Palestine,” Zemor told The Jerusalem Post
interview from Paris.
“The majority of the participants are not activists, they are people that are against the occupation. They want a
free Palestine. They want Israelis and Palestinians to live in peace with equal
rights. They have wanted to meet Palestinians and to go to Palestine to
tell them they support their struggle for freedom, but they were scared to do it
alone,” she added.
Zemor has a long history of pro- Palestinian activism.
She heads the group Euro Palestine and is a member of the Boycott, Divestment
and Sanctions (BDS) movement. She and her daughter were among the 347 activists
Israel blacklisted last July when they attempted to participate in the first
“Welcome to Palestine” event.
Another 124 activists who landed in Israel
were deported. Several dozen passed through customs and participated in a week
of planned events.
Zemor is hopeful that this year, she and her daughter
will be allowed to board. Her pro-Palestinian opinions, she said, should not bar
her from the country.
“Would Israelis be prevented from coming to France
if they did not like [French President Nicolas] Sarkozy?” she
Manuel Hassassian, the head of the Palestinian diplomatic mission
to the UK, sent a letter to all members of that country’s parliament asking them
to support the event.
Gush Shalom on Wednesday called on Public Security
Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch to cancel Sunday’s police operation at the airport
and to allow the activists to land. It suggested instead that the activists be
welcomed with flowers.
Aharonovitch has received ministerial
responsibility to oversee the operation, while central police district chief
Cmdr. Bentsi Sao will oversee its implementation.
chose one of Ben-Gurion Airport’s busiest days to land, as around 45,000
ordinary passengers are expected to pass through the airport on Sunday, just
after the Passover holiday ends and a week after Easter.
primary concern is to keep the site running in a routine manner.
end, police officers met with representatives of the intelligence community on
Wednesday morning, going over information and details of the operation to
prevent the activists from bypassing security.
According to evaluations,
the foreign activists plan to meet up with Palestinian activists and demonstrate
in traditional flashpoints, such as the security fence and east
Police are also preparing for the possibility that Israeli
anarchists and other far-Left activists may try to meet the foreigners at the
airport, and are determined to prevent that from occurring.
Security Ministry said that like last year, senior activists intent on creating
disturbances will be identified before they board planes to
During last year’s “flytilla,” the majority of activists were
prevented from boarding passenger jets bound for Israel after the Foreign
Ministry submitted lists of names to airlines.
If the activists manage to
arrive in Israel, they will be taken off the planes and denied entry. They will
be placed in temporary holding cells before being deported to their points of
“Israel will prevent this provocation, just as every country
prevents the entry of hostile elements to its territory,” Aharonovitch said. “We
will be determined and speedy in our response, but we will not chase anyone
through the halls of the airport.”