Pro-Palestinian ‘fly-in’ protesters detained at Ben Gurion airport

JERUSALEM (JTA) — At least 10 pro-Palestinian activists who arrived in Israel for a “fly-in” protest were detained at Ben Gurion airport.

Anat Cohen at The Sheldon

The activists who arrived Sunday from at least four different countries are part of the “Welcome to Palestine” campaign, in which activists from around the world are scheduled to arrive in Israel and  declare their intention to travel to the West Bank to highlight the fact that there is no way to visit what they call Palestine without traveling through Israel.

Four of the activists taken into custody Sunday morning arrived from Paris and four others arrived from Switzerland. A Canadian national flew to Israel from the United States and a Portuguese national arrived from Jordan, according to Haaretz.  

The group says it plans to travel to Bethlehem and lay a cornerstone for an educational institution. The campaign has said it expected up to 2,500 activists to attempt to make it to Israel.

Several airlines, including Lufthansa, Air France and Easyjet, cancelled the flights of known activists before they could leave from their points of origin. Israel had requested of airlines to prevent activists from boarding flights; in addition, if fliers are turned away from Israel and put on a flight back to their point of origin, the airline must absorb the cost of the return flight.

More than 600 unarmed policemen are stationed at Ben Gurion airport in order to intercept activists who arrive in Israel unchallenged, according to Israel Radio.

Several dozen pro-Palestinian activists protested Sunday morning at the airport in Geneva, Switzerland, saying authorities prevented about 100 activists from boarding a flight bound for Israel.

Dozens of activists reportedly also protested at Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris after being denied entry to their flights to Israel. The protesters chanted “Today the barrier is here” and “Israel get out, France is not yours.”

Sunday, the day after Passover ends, is one of Ben Gurion Airport’s busiest flying days.

Activists who manage to arrive in Israel will receive a sarcastic letter issued by the Prime Minister’s Office, which thanks them for “choosing to make Israel the object of your humanitarian choices” instead of protesting human rights abuses and terrorists in Syria, Iran and Gaza, according to the Jerusalem Post, which printed a copy of the letter.

The letter suggests to the activists that they “first solve the real problems of the region, and then come back and share with us your experience.”  It also tells them to “Have a nice flight.”

In July 2011, some 300 activists flew to Israel for a protest fly-in. About 120 were detained.

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