Who's behind the 'flytilla'?
'Welcome to Palestine' campaign organizers include pro-Palestinian groups from Europe, United States. Organizers call activists who were barred from flight to 'pursue legal action as part of effort to expose Israel's racist policies'. Legal expert: Every country can decide who can and who cannot enter its borders
Who's behind the Ben-Gurion Airport fly-in? Dozens of pro-Palestinian activists who arrived on flights to Israel on Friday and denied entry by authorities were sent by several organizations based in Europe and the United States.
The campaign to bring international activists to Israel's airport, dubbed "Welcome to Palestine," was orchestrated months in advance and took meticulous planning.
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The date was carefully selected, marking the seventh anniversary to the International Criminal Court's advisory opinion on the legality of the security fence, which rendered the fence illegal.
Among the organizers of the campaign is Movement Free Palestine, an American organization based in California, which according to its mission statement aims to "defend and advocate for the human rights of all Palestinians…by defying barriers imposed by Israeli and international authorities upon travel and trade to, from and within Palestine for Palestinians and persons invited by Palestinians."
Other groups include London-based Palestinian Return Centre (PRC), which is affiliated with the Hamas and Muslim Brotherhood parties and denies Israel's right to exist, and Movement International Solidarity, which was founded over a decade ago with the aim of giving international humanitarian aid to Palestinians by employing non-violent means.
Israeli leftists organizations who supported the fly-in, but did not take part in its initiation or planning include the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, which supports an international economic, political and cultural boycott on Israel; Anarchists Against the Wall – a group that protests against the security fence, which it claims is being built on Palestinian lands in the West Bank; The Alternative Information Center (AIC) – a joint Palestinian-Israeli non-governmental organization which "engages in dissemination of information, political advocacy, grassroots activism and critical analysis of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict"; and Occupation Magazine, which brings information and analysis in Hebrew and English through its online website.
Legal actionFollowing the detention of dozens of activists on Friday, Spokesperson for "Welcome to Palestine" campaign Dr. Mazim Qumsiyeh slammed Israel, saying "the authorities made a mistake by letting security forces handle people who clearly don't pose a security risk."
"We're sick and tired of lying when we arrive at Allenby crossing or Ben-Gurion Airport to visit our Palestinian friends," said an International Solidarity Movement activist, adding that the Israeli action only highlights the "blockade on the West Bank."
'Every country has right to deny entry.' Border Guard near plane
"Welcome to Palestine" campaign organizers called on the airlines to struggle against the Israeli government's "extortionist, illegal and provocative" actions, adding that they are content with the outcome of the campaign, "Which further reveals Israel's policy toward Palestinian-related issues, and does not fare well with the basic principles of democracy and human rights."
Qumsiyeh noted that passengers who were not allowed to board their flights should "pursue their full rights, including legal action in their countries and in Israeli courts, as part of the effort to expose Israel's racist policies."
The Interior Ministry warned airlines in advance that passengers whose names appear on the "blacklist" and are allowed to fly to Israel – will be deported on the expense of the airline.
German federal police spokesperson noted that as long as a passenger has an airline ticket and a valid passport, there are no grounds to prevent him from flying. However, Swissair spokesperson told al-Jazeera network that the issue is regulated by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), which has a clear policy.
"If a country tells the airline that an individual will be barred from entering the country, this person will not be allowed to board the plane," explained the spokesperson.
"As a company, we are obliged to comply with the regulations and may not fly the passenger," he said, adding that the airline is "legally bound" by this policy because every country has the right to deny entry inside its borders.
International Bar Association Executive Director Dr. Mark Ellis also explained why Israel was acting in accordance with international law by denying the entry of individuals. "Every country has the right to say who can and who cannot enter its borders. It's a controversial matter, but not illegal," he noted.
In this case, Ellis added, Israel's position was justified, as it is derived from security considerations, which gives wider maneuvering room vis-à-vis flight restrictions.
Yoav Zitun, Elior Levy and Boaz Fyler contributed to the report
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