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ISRAEL HAS finalised plans which, it hopes, will obstruct pro-Palestinian activists’ plans to fly to Israel’s Ben Gurion airport on Sunday and then travel on to the West Bank.
Organisers hope that more than 2,000 people will join this year’s “Welcome to Palestine ” campaign and fly to Tel Aviv from airports across Europe.
Among the Irish passport holders flying on Sunday will be Dee Murphy (58), from Cork, who is “hoping to get through and go to Bethlehem to help lay cornerstones for a kindergarten” as well as to “see friends and make links with people”.
“The Israelis say what we want to do is an aggressive act. The point is to see friends and also to challenge the Israelis stopping people going to Palestine. I just want to visit. Why can’t I?”
Terry Galloghly (73), from Belfast, asks a similar question: “I have been three times to Palestine and each time I have had to lie to to the Israelis to be allowed in.
“Last time, in December, I said I was visiting Christian sites. I did visit Christian sites but that wasn’t the purpose of my visit. This time I am going to be frank and honest and tell them I am there for the peaceful purpose of visiting my friends.
“My Irish passport asks that . . . be allowed to pass freely and without hindrance. I expect the Israelis to respect that.”
Israel views the campaign, dubbed the “flytilla”, as provocation, and is co-ordinating efforts with airlines in an attempt to stop the activists boarding flights at European airports.
Israel’s public security minister, Yitzhak Aharonovitch, said pro-Palestinian campaigners who do arrive will be held at airport detention facilities until flights are available to take them home.
“Israel will prevent this provocation, the same way any other country bars the entry of hostile entities,” he said. “We will handle the provocateurs as quickly and efficiently as possible, but we will not be chasing them down the airport halls.”
Mr Aharonovitch held a number of meetings at Ben Gurion airport to co-ordinate plans between the police, the airport authority, customs and immigration services.
Israel believes the first activists may arrive on Friday and Saturday in an effort to bypass the Israeli security clampdown. Sunday coincides with the end of both Easter and the Jewish Passover holiday, and will be one of Ben Gurion airport’s busiest days of the year.
West Bank organisers of the campaign said the aim was to highlight Israel’s control of access to the area.
A statement on the Welcome to Palestine website reads, “There is no way into Palestine other than through Israeli control points. Israel has turned Palestine into a giant prison, but prisoners have a right to receive visitors.”
The organisers said several European airports have said they will not prevent participants from boarding Israel-bound planes, as this involves reimbursing passengers for their ticket.
This is the third time a fly-in has been arranged. In 2010 organisers claimed that about 100 foreigners were able to arrive without incident, reach the West Bank and participate in a series of solidarity events.
#Airflotilla2 | Mission “Welcome to Palestine”: The detailed program