Police prepares in force to meet “activist airlift” Friday (updated)

The Israeli authorities are determined not to let any visitor who would declare his desire to come to the West Bank enter the country this Friday. In a statement made yesterday, PM Netanyahu’s office called the planned attempt by hundreds of activists to conduct a solidarity visit in the Palestinian Territories “an effort to undermine Israel’s right to exist”. “Everyone here is in hysterics,” sources in Jerusalem told media

This post was updated.

As we have reported here on Sunday, A coalition of organizations has made public its intention to have hundreds of international activists land at Ben-Gurion airport this Friday, July 8th, and openly admit their intention to visit the Palestinian Territories. The campaign has been named “Welcome to Palestine.”

Israel controls all entries and exits to the Palestinian Territories. Until now, visitors coming in solidarity with the Palestinians–and even non-political visitors–had to conceal their destination when questioned at the airport, or risk immediate deportation. A couple of years ago, American scholar Noam Chomsky was denied entry to Israel at the Jordanian border, after declaring his intention to give a lecture at Ramallah’s Bir Zeit University.

Though the intention of the international activists to visit the West Bank has been known for sometime, it was only picked up by the Hebrew media in the last couple of days. Citing security officials, Israeli papers have reported on special deployment of police forces at Ben-Gurion international airport to take place from Thursday.

A police source told the daily Maariv that an effort will be made to locate the activists before they board their flights to Israel. “Those who will try to disturb public order will be dealt with,” a spokesperson for the Foreign Office told the site Walla.co.il.

Prime Minister Netanyahu’s office has released a statement declaring that the arrival of the protesters “is a continuation of the efforts to undermine Israel’s right to exist.” Netanyahu ordered the Internal Security Minister Yitzhak Aharomowitz (Israel Beitenu) to handle the preparation of all security agencies to the arrival of the activists. Aharonowitz will conduct a joint session of senior police officials tomorrow, the Army Radio reported.

“We will block those Hooligans from entering the state,” Aharonowitz told the press today.

The local media has labeled the event as “the air flotilla.”

The Israeli warning doesn’t seem to deter the activists from coming, though it is nor clear how many of them did buy tickets to Tel Aviv, and how many of those will be able to pass through the security questionings at the gate and board their flights.

In an article at the British Guardian, Sam Bahour, a coordinators of the Right to Enter campaign, called Israel’s threat to deny visitors entry to Palestine “disturbing” and “shocking”:

…more than 300 international activists plan to arrive in Tel Aviv during the week of 8 July at the invitation of 30 Palestinian civil society organisations, to participate in an initiative named “Welcome to Palestine”. Delegations from France, Great Britain, Belgium, Sweden, Germany, the USA, Japan and several African countries are expected.

Upon arrival at Ben Gurion airport, the invited guests, all from countries that have diplomatic relations with Israel, will make no secret of their intent to go to the occupied Palestinian territory. This nonviolent act, a civil society tsunami of sorts, only comes after Israel’s restriction of movement and access to and from Palestine for Palestinians and foreigners has exhausted all established channels that carry the responsibility to uphold international law first and their domestic laws second.

Israeli anti-occupation activists are planning to conduct their “welcoming party” at the arrival hall of TLV airport.

UPDATE: Ynet’s report this morning (Wednesday) detalis more security arrangments to be taken by Israeli authorities at the airport. “Everyone here is in hysterics,” sources in Jerusalem told Ynet. A special operation room will be active at Ben Gurion airport starting tomorrow, and plainclothes detective will be stationed in the terminals. Flight from Europe might be directed to a separate terminal.

“We expect that some 500 pro-Palestinian activists will attempt to land in Israel from Europe in the coming days, with a large mass expected on Friday,” an element at the Public Security Ministry said. “They will try to create provocations. We are not familiar with them all but will urge the airlines to prevent those we do know from boarding the planes.”

Israeli chief of police told Maariv that “we won’t be soft on protesters coming to the airport”

UPDATE II: two dutch Journalist, coming to do a pro-Israeli story on the flotilla, were prevented from boarding a flight to Tel Aviv. Five activists were deported until Wednesday night.