Bloomberg News

Israel Bars Entry to 85 Pro-Palestinian Activists at Airport

July 08, 2011

(Updates with number denied entry in first paragraph.)

July 8 (Bloomberg) -- Israeli authorities denied entry to 85 pro-Palestinian activists at Ben-Gurion International Airport today, while about 200 other passengers from American and European cities were barred from flying to Israel after the government provided foreign airlines with names of suspected activists, police said.

Those barred include citizens of the U.S., Belgium and Germany, said the national police spokesman, Micky Rosenfeld. Those who haven’t already been deported have been detained and all will be flown out of Israel over the next 48 hours depending on flight availability, he said.

Authorities arrested six Israeli activists who hoisted banners and shouted pro-Palestinian slogans at the airport east of Tel Aviv, Rosenfeld said by phone. “They created a disturbance and they were arrested by police,” he said.

Security personnel stood ready for activists from the U.S. and Europe who were booked on flights arriving in Israel today. The activists were planning to participate in a so-called Welcome to Palestine week of events in the West Bank, said the organizers, who pledged to keep the activities non-violent. Israel is a gateway for foreign visitors to Palestinian areas in the West Bank, which can also be reached through Jordan.

“Every country has the basic right to stop the entry into its territory of provocateurs,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told reporters yesterday on a visit to Bulgaria. Netanyahu had inspected preparations at the airport July 6 before departing on a diplomatic swing through eastern Europe.

‘Air Flotilla’

The Palestinian supporters’ action, described as an “air flotilla,” follows the Greek authorities’ detention of a group of boats planning to challenge Israel’s sea blockade of the Gaza Strip. Efforts to send a similar flotilla to Gaza last year ended in violence when Israeli commandos dropped from helicopters onto one of the ships that refused to stop and opened fire, killing nine Turks. Israel says people onboard shot first and attacked with iron bars, a charge they deny.

Israeli security forces have been deciding on an individual basis whether travelers identified as activists will be permitted into the country or detained for possible deportation, Rosenfeld said.

As many as 1,000 travelers were expected to arrive at Ben- Gurion airport today and tomorrow bound for the West Bank, Israel Radio said.

Called ‘Pacifists’

Organizers of the pro-Palestinian events said the arriving travelers are “pacifists” and that “rumors of planned protests are false.” They will “simply tell the truth” that they are arriving “to transit through Israel on their way to Palestine,” according to an e-mailed statement by the Welcome to Palestine movement.

An Israeli official, meanwhile, said the government would issue a detailed criticism of a United Nations report about violence on its border with Lebanon in May.

The report, written by the UN special coordinator for Lebanon, Michael Williams, concluded that Israel used “disproportionate force” against Lebanese demonstrators attempting to enter Israel, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz said on July 6.

Israel’s UN delegation is writing a letter to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in which it will respond to the report, Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor said in a phone interview, without giving details.

--With assistance from Gwen Ackerman in Jerusalem. Editors: Philip Sanders, Ann Hughey.

To contact the reporters on this story: Jonathan Ferziger in Jerusalem at jferziger@bloomberg.net; Calev Ben-David in Jerusalem at cbendavid@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Andrew J. Barden at barden@bloomberg.net.


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