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Officers at Ben Gurion Photo: Ohad Zwigenberg
Officers at Ben Gurion Photo: Ohad Zwigenberg
 
 

Activist: We only want to tour Palestine

Dozens of police, Border Guard officers deploy in Ben Gurion Airport, instructed to monitor suspicious behavior ahead of fly-in's arrival. 'Our visit is between us and the Palestinians,' French activist says

Yoav Zitun
Latest Update: 07.06.11, 16:32 / Israel News

Dozens of police and Border Guard officers were deployed at the Ben Gurion Airport Wednesday morning as part of preparations towards the arrival of the pro-Palestinian fly-in.

 

The officers were briefed about points from which to monitor suspicious activity in order to trace the first passengers arriving from Europe. Many media personnel are also present at the airport.

 

 

While the flight schedule has remained unchanged it is estimated that long security checks for flights arriving over the weekend may cause delays in departures.


Border Guard officers at Ben Gurion Airport (Photo: Ohad Zwigenberg)

 

Despite the early deployment, police suspect that five activists from France and Belgium, who have been banned from entering Israel, have succeeded in entering the country over the past week.

 

Police expect around 500 activists from 15 different organizations to fly into Israel Friday, and focus their sights on al-Arakib, Lod, and east Jerusalem, where home demolitions have been most common.

 

In addition, police are preparing for rioting at the airport, which may become increasingly aggravated if arrests are made. Some 600 officers are likely to take part in handling the fly-in.

 

'Only want to show solidarity'

Nicolas Sheshni, a prominent pro-Palestinian activist in France said: "I already have my ticket for Friday, traveling with El Al of course."

 

He said that 300 French activists are expected to arrive in Israel. "We have no intention of staging a political protest inside Israeli territory," he stressed, "we only want to tour Palestine and show solidarity with the Palestinian people."

 

Referring to reports of Israeli fears of provocations he said, "It's a lie told by Israeli PR. Our people are going to tour Palestine. Normally one cannot come to Israel and say one is going to Bethlehem or Ramallah, but we think this is unthinkable. That is why we openly declared this is our intention."

 

The group is meant to plant olive trees in Ramallah, visit Juliano Mer Khamis's theatre in Jenin and hold a tour of Bethlehem. "We have no intention of doing anything at the airport or anywhere else inside Israeli territory," Sheshni said. "Instead of lying and saying we're going to Eilat, we mean to openly travel through Palestine. Israel cannot determine who will visit Palestine."

 

The activist added that he appreciates Israel's need to protect itself. "I'm not talking about people with Kalashnikovs at Ben Gurion, but British and French people coming to Palestine. The visit is strictly between us and the Palestinians."

 

Asked what the activists would do if they were told to go back to Europe he said: "We intend to stand up for our rights. We will demand explanations and involve the consulate as well as lawyers. This way the world will see Israel's behavior."

 

Sheshni replied in an ambiguous manner when asked about the possibility of using violence if they security forces ask them to return. "What kind of a question is this? These are state forces with weapons and means opposite people and kids with private baggage. The question is irrelevant."

 

Eli Senyor Aviel Magnezi contributed to this report

 

 

First Published: 07.06.11, 14:41

 

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