(photo credit: Ben Hartman)
There were more cameramen and reporters at Ben-Gurion Airport than activists on
Sunday, as nearly 50,000 passengers passed through on one of the busiest travel
days in the year.
Many Israelis returned home from Passover trips abroad,
tourists started their own visits in Israel, and thousands of people boarded
Despite the apparent routine scene, as Terminal 3
bustled with people, suitcases, and the buzz of international travel, Israeli
authorities were quietly preventing hundreds of pro-Palestinian activists from
entering the country. This was no spontaneous operational success, but rather,
the result of painstaking prior planning.
The first part of the plan
began to fall into place months ago, when the intelligence services were ordered
to begin gathering names of prominent foreign activists who would try to enter
the country on the “flytilla.”
According to assessments, the activists
were seeking to join potentially violent demonstrations in east Jerusalem and
the security fence if they managed to enter the country.
names were assembled, and sent to foreign airlines. The airlines had a clear
incentive to ban the activists from boarding, for it is the airlines that have
to shoulder the cost of a return ticket for those barred from entering a
As the day came closer, police and the Public Security Ministry
chose to repeat last year’s mode of action, and bring all passenger aircraft
carrying activists to the smaller Terminal 1, thereby keeping any activists away
from Israel’s main artery of air travel at Terminal 3.
The few occasions
when the peace was disturbed occurred when pro-Palestinian Israeli activists
snuck into the airport, held up signs and were surrounded by heckling pro-Israel
activists. Police officers acted according to instructions when they swiftly
whisked the sign-holders out of sight.
For passengers coming out of
customs and witnessing the bizarre spectacle, the most noticeable aspect was
probably the trail of dozens of cameramen and journalists rushing around the
detained Israeli activists as they were walked out of the airport by
On occasions such as this, the term “media spectacle” takes on a