Mass pro-Palestinian ‘fly-in’ a bust as scores arrested, deported

BEN-GURION AIRPORT (JWN and agencies)—A total of 79 international pro-Palestinian activists were denied entry into Israel on Sunday and all but 31 were awaiting deportation Sunday night. Most of some 1,200 activists who had been expected had been confined to their countries of origin by foreign airlines that refused to fly them to Israel after receiving notice of Israel’s blacklist.

By Sunday evening security authorities had canceled the high state of alert at the airport, which had enabled the normal flow of holiday air traffic to continue without interruption. Some 50,000 travelers passed through the airport Sunday at the end of the Passover and Easter holidays.

Three activists did manage to get by the extra tight security and traveled to Bethlehem, where they held a press conference. They were part of a so-called “flytilla,” an intended mass fly-in protest organized by several pro-Palestinian organizations. Last year, a similar event also resulted in dozens of arrests and deportations.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said Sunday evening that, rather than focusing on Israel, the region’s only democracy, the activists would have been better off seeking to draw international attention to the killings in Syria and to murderous human rights abuses in Iran.

“They should go to Gaza and stop the practice of using children as human shields for terrorists who fire rockets on our citizens,” he said at the start of a meeting with visiting US Senator Joe Lieberman. “They should come to Israel and we can talk with them about what they learned about how the Middle East really is.”

The activists who were denied entry to the country were given a letter from the Prime Minister’s Office expressing similar thoughts.