Israel to 'thank' fly-in activists in mocking letter

Israel plans to present activists with letter questioning choice to hold protest against Israel rather than Syria, Iran or Hamas.

pro-Palestinian activists at Ben Gurion Airport 370 (photo credit: REUTERS)
pro-Palestinian activists at Ben Gurion Airport 370
(photo credit: REUTERS)
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 sole democracy.”
“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 continues.
“We know there were many other worthy choices.”
Israel 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.”
Meanwhile, Foreign 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 visa.
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 website.
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 entry.”
“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.
Public Security 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 Airport.”
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 added.
Two European airlines, 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 canceled.
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.”
Hundreds 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 estimates.
Sunday is expected to be one of Israel’s busiest air travel days, with some 45,000 passengers landing and taking off from Ben-Gurion.
Central police district chief Cmdr. Bentsi Sao will oversee the operation, which is aimed at ensuring routine at the airport.
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.