Hundreds stopped by European authorities from boarding Israel-bound flights as part of Welcome to Palestine campaign.
The Welcome to Palestine campaign says it aims to publicise Israel’s control of movement in Palestine [EPA]
Hundreds of pro-Palestinian activists have been prevented by authorities across Europe from boarding flights bound for Tel Aviv.
The Swiss police were the latest, early on Sunday morning, to prevent about a hundred pro-Palestinian activists from flying to Ben Gurion airport, according to the Welcome to Palestine campaign.
“The information we have obtained from activists is that there is a high presence of police there and the police are trying to prevent them from boarding,” Anas Mohammed, a campaign spokesman, said in a telephone interview.
“Besides that there has been the confiscation of a passport of one of the activists.”
The Swiss and French activists had bought their tickets in advance and were due to fly on a 6:30am local time (04:30 GMT) flight to Tel Aviv, Mohammed said.
“They are going to visit Palestinians who are under occupation, they are going to visit the West Bank.”
The British airline Jet2.com and the French carrier Air France said on Saturday they were cancelling seats on flights to Tel Aviv.
Israel deploys police
Israeli police said early on Sunday that hundreds of officers are deployed at Israel’s main airport to detain activists flying in.
“Four activists have been detained after arriving on an El Al flight from Paris and are being questioned at (Tel Aviv) airport,” police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said.
An Interior Ministry spokeswoman said the Immigration Authority had on Wednesday given airlines the names of some 1,200 activists whose entrance to Israel would be barred.
Israel is nervous about a large influx of protesters, following deadly run-ins with such activists in the past, and has said it will deport those who arrive.
The Guardian, the British daily, reported that Jet2.com had contacted three women passengers late on Friday to inform them that their seats had been cancelled on a flight to Tel Aviv scheduled to leave Manchester, northern England, at 09:00 GMT on Sunday.
A company spokewoman declined to comment on the number of affected passengers, adding that all the airline’s tickets were non-refundable.
“Jet2.com is legally required to provide advance passenger information for all passengers departing from and arriving into the UK to the appropriate immigration authorities,” the company said in a statement.
“As a result of providing that information, Jet2.com was informed by the Israeli authorities that certain passengers booked to travel on flight LS907 would not be permitted to enter Israel.
“We were further advised that if we were to allow them to travel, we would be responsible for their immediate return to the UK.
“In light of this position by the Israeli authorities, we were unable to accept them to travel on the flight.”
Lufthansa, the German airline, cancelled on Friday tickets of dozens of pro-Palestinian activists for this weekend, saying it was complying with Israeli advice.
Air France said on Saturday it had withdrawn tickets for flights Sunday from Paris’s main Charles de Gaulle airport and from Nice.
“Under the Chicago Convention, Air France refuses to embark any passenger not admissable by Israel,” a spokeswoman said.
Third consecutive year
The Welcome to Palestine campaign is taking place for a third consecutive year.
The campaign’s organisers in the West Bank say they want to publicise Israel’s control of movement into and out of the Palestinian territory and to boost solidarity with the Palestinian people.
The activists, mainly from European countries, are expected to openly declare their intention to visit the Palestinian West Bank, but Israel has pledged to prevent them even from arriving.
For his part, Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, advised the activists to concentrate on “real problems” in the region.
“We appreciate your choosing to make Israel the object of your humanitarian concerns,” he said in an open letter issued by the prime minister’s office [the letter can be found at the end of the article].
“We know there were many other worthy choices.
“You could have chosen to protest the Syrian regime’s daily savagery against its own people, which has claimed thousands of lives.
“You could have chosen to protest the Iranian regime’s brutal crackdown on dissent and support of terrorism throughout the world.
“You could have chosen to protest Hamas rule in Gaza, where terror organisations commit a double war crime by firing rockets at civilians and hiding behind civilians.”