A German airline has been criticized after it banned dozens of activists from flying to Israel this weekend as part of a campaign to highlight the restrictions in movement to and from the occupied territories.
Lufthansa canceled the tickets of tens of people scheduled to fly to Tel Aviv on Sunday as part of a mass fly-in dubbed “Welcome to Palestine,” organizers said on Friday.
“Dozens of passengers who bought a plane ticket to travel to Tel Aviv on Sunday, April 15, were notified Thursday by Lufthansa that their reservation was canceled at the behest of Israel,” the Welcome to Palestine group said in a statement.
“Passengers on Lufthansa flights have not committed any offense, and do not accept these mafia-methods, favored by governments complicit in the imprisonment of the Palestinian people,” it added.
Many of those who have been banned from flying plan to contest the decision, the statement said.
“They will appear as scheduled at their airports boarding this weekend, a reminder that the West Bank, nor the rest of Palestine, does not belong to Israel and to demand respect for international law,” it said.
Over 2,000 people, mostly from Europe, are expected to fly to airports across Israel on Sunday to raise awareness of Israel’s continued occupation of Palestine.
“The aim is very clear, modest and minimal, it’s to highlight the fact that Israel has turned the West Bank into prison and is not allowing the prisoners to receive visitors,” Mick Napier, the UK coordinator for Welcome to Palestine, said earlier in the week.
Lufthansa confirmed that they had canceled the tickets at the request of Israel.
“We received a list from the Israeli authorities of people who were not allowed to enter the country. We checked that with those who were due to fly with us and canceled their flights, in accordance with [Israeli] immigration laws,” a spokesperson told Al-Akhbar.
The airline refused to confirm how many people had been prevented from flying or reveal their nationalities.
Activists condemned the decision on social networks, with many questioning the legality of the decision.
Palestinian journalist Ali Abunimah said the decision suggested that all those that flew to Israeli airports would have to be in favor of the continued occupation.
Airlines prevented activists from boarding flights to Israel during the 2011 Welcome to Palestine campaign.
Roughly 100 made it to Israeli airports, who were then immediately detained and held without charge, some for up to four days.
Napier warned on Tuesday that airlines may face domestic legal action if they repeat their actions this year.
“We’ll be putting legal pressure on airlines for breaking contracts and cancelling holidays at the last minute, and that for us will be a domestic forum for us to raise issues of Palestinian human rights,” he said.
Israel maintains a siege of Gaza and occupies the West Bank, while expanding illegal Jewish settlements in defiance of international law.
The Israeli occupation imposes harsh restrictions on indigenous Palestinians, including the annexation of their properties, and restricted movement via military checkpoints.
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