Israeli security has distributed a blacklist among foreign airlines, featuring names of 300 activists who will not be allowed on Israel-bound flights. The measure comes in preparation for the pro-Palestinian fly-in,
which is scheduled to take place over the upcoming weekend.
Israel told the airlines that the blacklisted individuals, most of whom come from France, are unauthorized to enter the state. The air carriers, in turn, promised to prohibit these individuals from boarding flights.
Police say around 500 activists were due to participate in the fly-in, of them 342 have already been recognized. The Immigration Authority says 180 blacklisted passengers have been turned away by airlines. Police say those remaining will be detained upon arrival if they succeed in boarding flights.
The first flight carrying activists is scheduled to arrive at 11:30 pm Thursday, but flights arriving from Germany early Friday are expected to be carrying many more.
According to organizers of the fly-in, at least eight activists wishing to board a Malev Airlines flight from Paris to Budapest, and then Tel Aviv, were turned away.
One organizer, Nicholas Shashani, told Ynet that an airline official told them that she was following the Israeli Interior Ministry's orders, and showed them the list of barred individuals. Shashani claimed that they filed a complaint with police at the airport.
Shashani added that two travelers who wished to board a flight from Switzerland received e-mail messages notifying them that their trips were canceled, "as per Israel's Interior Ministry instructions."
These incidents will not deter hundreds of activists from flying from various European airports to Tel Aviv, Shashani said.
Police at Ben Gurion Airport (Photo: Dudu Azulay)
France also warned its nationals on Thursday against taking part in the fly-in.
"France is concerned about the risks that may occur at the airport in Tel Aviv on Friday, July 8, as part of the operation 'Welcome to Palestine,'" a statement issued by French Foreign Ministry spokesman Bernard Valero read.
According to the statement, the French embassy in Israel is mobilizing to assist its nationals – who might be subject to arrest. It was also noted that despite requests by the French Foreign Ministry, the organizers of the protest did not provide it with a list of individuals who intend to participate in the fly-in, or the flights they plan to take.
Ruby Seibel, formerly the Foreign Ministry's legal adviser and an international law expert, told Ynet that according to international aviation regulations, airlines must return passengers who are refused entry by the country of destination to their home states, at the airlines' expense.
Thus, Seibel says, the airlines prefer not to allow personas non-grata onto their flights. "Every state can declare who can and cannot enter at its own discretions, and no one can undermine this," he said.
Meanwhile, preparation for the pro-Palestinian protest continued at Ben Gurion Airport. Visitors reported an unusual number of police officers patrolling the grounds. But some arriving passengers claimed that they did not observe any tension.
"I am here for the first time, and it doesn't feel tense at all. For me, it looks completely normal," one Dutch tourist, Mary, said. "I heard on the news about the activists' arrival, but I don't think it's as bad as the Israeli government and media presented it in the beginning.
"Our only concern is that it will delay our friend's arrival from Paris, due to the heightened security, but that might not even happen," she said.
Guy Mansharov was at the airport on his way to visit Georgia with his family. "We were a little worried that there will be a commotion or a delay, but then we heard that it won't happen today," he said. "So far, Ben Gurion Airport is functioning well. We don't feel any change. We hope that the idea of the fly-in will crash, just like the last flotilla sunk."
Omri Efraim, Yoav Zitun, Aviel Magnezi and Boaz Fyler and AFP contributed to this report