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Israel braces for mass arrival of pro-Palestinian activists


This news story was published on April 14, 2012.
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By Jeff Abramowitz –

TEL AVIV, Israel — Israel completed preparations Saturday for an expected influx of hundreds of pro-Palestinian activists on Sunday, while the Welcome to Palestine 2012 initiative urged protesters barred from boarding flights to challenge the decision.

Police spokesman Mickey Rosenfeld told dpa that more than 500 policemen, in uniform and civilian clothing, would be stationed at Ben Gurion Airport, near Tel Aviv, ahead of the mass arrival of demonstrators taking part in Welcome to Palestine.

The initiative, dubbed the “flytilla,” calls on activists to challenge what it deems “Israel’s policy of isolating the West Bank” by controlling all entry and exit points.

Most activists are expected from Sunday, but some may arrive on flights scheduled to land on Saturday night.

Ahead of the event, Israel gave airlines the names of activists who would be denied entry, in the hope that these demonstrators would not be allowed to board flights bound for Tel Aviv.

Several airlines complied with the Israeli request, leading the Welcome to Palestine organizers to issue a statement saying the Israeli demands included “blatant and documentable lies and defamation.”

“It is essential that those who had cancellations … challenge the airlines and their governments,” the statement said.

Blacklisted passengers who do make it to the airport will be arrested upon arrival and placed in holding facilities, to be deported on the next available flight to their country of origin.

They will also be handed a letter at the airport upon arrival.

The letter, typed in English, will thank them for choosing to “make Israel the object of your humanitarian concerns” when there were “so many other worthy candidates,” such as “the Syrian regime’s daily savagery against its own people,” “the Iranian regime’s brutal crackdown on dissent” and Hamas’ rule in the Gaza Strip.

“We therefore suggest you first solve the real problems of the region, and then come back and share with us your experiences,” the tongue-in-cheek letter concludes.

Sunday’s event mirrors a similar initiative which took place in July last year, when hundreds of pro-Palestinian activists flew to Ben Gurion airport.

Police managed to deport more than 120 of them on arrival, although several others managed to evade police and walk out of the airport.

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