(Cartoon: Carlos Latuff)
This Sunday, the Airflotilla2, or “flytilla,” organizers expect around 1,500 international activists to fly into Ben-Gurion airport in order to draw attention to Israel’s abuses to the Palestinian people. As the third action of this kind approaches, Haaretz reports Israeli authorities are planning to deploy “hundreds of police and special forces,” to immediately deport the activists. Organizers of the Airfoltilla2 maintain they will continue with the demonstration and subsequent “Welcome to Palestine,” week-long program of activities in the West Bank. “They have the right to enter Palestine. It’s not up to Israel to forbid anybody from coming into Palestine,” said Abdelfattah Abusrour , a Palestinian fly-in coordinator. During their visit to the West Bank, activists will meet with Palestinian organizers in Bethlehem, Jerusalem, Hebron and Ramallah.
The AirFlofilla2 is an expensive direct action. Activists from around the world will board planes headed for Tel Aviv and when they arrive, they intend to inform airport security of their plans to enter the West Bank. Generally, announcing intent to enter the occupied Palestinian territories is grounds for deportation, though not an official Israeli policy. After last year’s fytilla, when two activists from Australia and New Zealand were denied entry they petitioned the order. However, the Israeli court did not accept the case, and 24-hour visas were then issued for the two activists. That case, and this year’s flytilla raises the legal question, can Israel deport travels for visiting the West Bank?
Anyone who has visited the occupied Palestinian territories understands the only way in is through an Israeli controlled boarder. And travelers know, divulging to the authorities plans to enter the West Bank or Gaza, even when obvious is risky, and often will lead to a denial of entry. Last summer, around 130 internationals who flew into Tel Aviv were imprisoned, and Israeli officials also promptly deported 36 activists. An additional 200 were expected to fly-in, however, they were barred from boarding flights to Israel in their home countries. The Airflotilla2 activists are challenging this de facto embargo placed upon the Palestinian territories.
Screen shot from the ligue defense juive (Jewish Defense League). Trans. from French: “The Jewish Defense League is organizing a welcome party for the anti-Semitic thugs who wish to travel to Israel mid-April. People wanting to participate in this warm welcome are requested to contact us.”
Activists also face challenges in their home countries. France’s Jewish Defense League (JDL) announced two days ago plans to thwart the fly-in at the departing airport. Their website ominously calls for a “welcome party for anti-Semitic thugs who wish to travel to Israel.” In the comment section of the post, one individual notes the JDL will meet at “terminal 1” show the flytilla activists “Israeli hospitality.”
Comment from the Jewish Defense League “warm welcome” post. Trans. from French: They must know Israeli hospitality !! Terminal 1 friends, sensitive flights (i.e., with Islamo-Nazis inside) we will be diverted to Terminal 1.”
For updates on Twitter follow @AirFlotilla2.