International activists launching a “Welcome to Palestine” campaign have gotten an unfriendly welcome from Israel.
Israel has blocked a “fly-in” by hundreds of pro-Palestinian activists who planned to arrive at the airport near Tel Aviv, on their way to a solidarity visit in the West Bank.
Airlines in Europe canceled the tickets of more than 100 campaigners after Israel issued a blacklist. Dozens of activists who managed to arrive at the airport were detained by Israeli authorities and will be deported.
Israel, which followed the “Welcome to Palestine” campaign on Facebook, charges that participants were planning disruptions at the airport and protests in the West Bank.
“It is very unfortunate that we are once again facing the kind of provocation coming from extremists from different countries," said Yuli Edelstein, Israeli Cabinet Minister. "Those who will make it to Israel will not be allowed to create any disorder.”
Palestinian organizer Abdul Fatah abu Suroor says Israel is blocking a peace mission.
“They are coming to Palestine," said Fatah. "They are not coming to make destruction, or explode airports, or attacking Israelis. They are coming to share a bit of humanity and support the Palestinian people despite being under occupation.”
Israel has been wary of international activists since a Gaza-aid flotilla two years ago turned violent, and nine people on board were killed by Israeli commandos. Activists say the fly-in further exposes Israel’s repressive policies toward the Palestinians.