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Pro-Palestinian peace activist at Ben-Gurion Airport Photo: Reuters
Pro-Palestinian peace activist at Ben-Gurion Airport Photo: Reuters

Losing the media game

Op-ed: Would it have been so terrible to let global activists enter Israel en route to Bethlehem?

Yakir Elkariv
Published: 04.15.12, 18:30 / Israel Opinion

The global fly-in made huge headlines over the weekend. However, I failed to understand where exactly the threat to the State of Israel’s sovereignty hid this time.


Let’s assume that hundreds of people characterizing themselves as pro-Palestinian peace activists would have arrived at Ben-Gurion Airport from all over the world. Let’s assume that they would have undergone the required screening and then continued by bus to Bethlehem, which is under Palestinian Authority control in any case.


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And then what? They would have joined rallies, delivered speeches, lit torches and marched. That is, they would have undertaken the customary ceremonies in such cases, before heading to various city hotels and going to sleep. What else can unarmed Europeans stuck in a small Judea and Samaria town do?


The next day they would have visited some churches, ate kebabs and hummus, and in the absence of action would have likely returned to their home countries.


If we learned one bitter lesson from the Marmara affair, it’s the following: The media resonance of any humanitarian activity on behalf of Gaza/Palestine/territories is directly proportional to the level of Israeli objection to the move.


If we undertake immense efforts to prevent such activities, they will be making history even before they started. Yet if we handle such cases with what Jabotinsky referred to as “kind indifference,” they will make a very small impression.


The news battle 

After all, this is mostly a media game, and the real question is who would be directing the scene that ultimately makes it to the evening news shows and YouTube? The handful of militant activists who would stir a provocation at Ben-Gurion Airport, or Israel, which would aim to prevent them from even making it to the airport?


The handling of the Gaza flotilla was such a failure because Israel gave in to its aggressive reflex to being with. What would have happened had we just decided to go with the flow this time? Allow the arrival of activists, accompany them within Ben-Gurion Airport, ensure that they enter Israel by law, and then bring them to Bethlehem.


Indeed, that would have been a headache. Yet we should keep in mind that most activists are generally good people. We should also keep in mind that even among the Israeli public there’s consensus that the occupation should have ended by now – the same occupation the activists wanted to protest against.


Prime Minister Netanyahu himself said that he endorses “two states for two peoples.”



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