Stopped at the airport
Photo: Israel Police
Israel braces for another 'flytilla'
Israel believes hundreds, possibly thousands of pro-Palestinian activists are set to stage fly-in to Ben Gurion Airport on Sunday ahead of trip to Palestinian Authority

Is a second fly-in underway? Hundreds, possibly thousands, of foreign pro-Palestinian activists are set to arrive in Israel via the Ben Gurion International Airport on Sunday ahead of trip to Palestinian Authority.


The measure is perceived as having volatile potential, and police sources said Monday that security forces are gearing to stop the activists at the airport should they cause a public disturbance – something authorities believe is very likely.


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The "flytilla," titled the "Welcome to Palestine 2012" campaign, is expected to consist of activists from the United States, Europe, Australia and New Zealand who plan to go to Bethlehem, before travelling to other Palestinian cities.


Internal Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch, who will coordinate the government's efforts vis-à-vis the fly-in, has already held several meetings on the matter, as well as a survey of the airport.


פעילים פרו-פלסטינים בנמל התעופה בז'נווה בשנה שעברה (צילום: AFP)

Activists in Geneva, last summer (Photo: AFP)


Aharonovitch's team consists of officials from the police, the Immigration authority, the Israel Aviation Authority and various other branches in the defense establishment.


Sunday, which will see the end of the Passover break in Israel, is considered one of the busiest days in Ben Gurion Airport.


Aharonovitch stressed that airport security, which will be reinforced, has been instructed to exercise restraint while maintaining order.


Israel's efforts to stop the first "flytilla," in July 2011, were somewhat successful, as many European nations stopped the activists from boarding their flights.


Jerusalem sources said that those who will arrive in Israel will not be granted entry and will be deported.


'We're not trying to make Israel look bad'

The fly-in's organizers said that unlike last year, European airlines are not expected to blacklist activists.


Dr. Mazin Qumsieh, one of the organizers, said that some 1,500 people are expected to arrive in Israel as part of the "flytilla," adding that some may arrive before Sunday.


אחת הקריקטורות באתר הרשמי של המטס

A cartoon on the 'flytilla's' website


"The airlines won't obey an Israeli demand to blacklist activists this time… After last year's events, some groups sued the airlines.


"I don't know how Israel plans to deal with this, but what would it look like of it deports 1,500 people?" he said.


Qumsieh stressed that the activists have been instructed to tell the truth about their reason for traveling to Israel.


The Palestinian Authority, he added, is aware that even if the activists arrive in Israel – they will be promptly deported.


The Palestinians are aware of the fact the regardless of the fly-in's end result, they are likely to have the upper hand – PR wise.


But Qumsieh insisted that is not the "flytilla's" goal: "We're not trying to make Israel look bad. I want Israel to let them in.


"Israel shouldn’t isolate us from the international community," he concluded. "I hope Israel does the right thing."


Elior Levy contributed to this report



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First published: 04.09.12, 20:38
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