I got this e-mail from a friend of Al Aqaba, Adam Keller of Gush Shalom. It's about the "flytilla" that's happening this Sunday, when a thousand or more people are planning on arriving at Ben Gurion airport and declaring their intention to visit the West Bank and join volunteer projects with Palestinian civil organizations. In a nutshell, you can only get into the West Bank through an Israeli airport or border terminal, and if you declare that you are visiting the West Bank, you risk being denied entry. Because of this, most people just lie.
The title of this article is in reference to last year's Fly-tilla, when Israeli "Tourism minister Stas Misezhnikov sent his people to the airport to hand flowers to those arrivals that are not planning to travel to the West Bank." Article here: Air Flotilla successful in exposing Israeli blockade of West Bank.
Gush Shalom, the Israeli Peace Bloc, calls upon the Minister of Public Security to cancel plans for flooding Israel's Ben Gurion Airport with a massive police force, in preparation for the activist "Fly-in" expected on Sunday. "More than a thousand international activists are due to arrive, among them aged persons, parents with their children and handicapped people in wheelchairs. They have no intention of carrying out any provocation, and there is no need to mobilize massive police forces. All that is needed is to say the word 'welcome' and perhaps also give a flower."
Here follows the full text of our letter to the minister
To Mr. Yitzhak Aharonovitch
Minister of Public Security
According to reports published in the media, Israel's National Police is preparing a large, complex, semi-military operation as its response to the "Fly-in", due on Sunday. It was announced that Deputy Commissioner Benzi Sau has drawn up the operational order, providing for Ben Gurion Airport to be flooded by hundreds of police, with the stated goal of creating "a critical mass facing the demonstrators". Officers are to be drafted for this "operation" from numerous police stations, and also the Special Anti-Riot Unit and other highly trained forces will be deployed. A senior Central District officer was quoted as saying "We will certainly be firm with them. They will not be able to do anything, when faced with the great force which we can bring to bear".
It is sad to note, Mr. Minister, that you - as well as the commanders of the police force for which you bear responsibility - have learned nothing from the events of the previous "Fly-in". At that time, more than a hundred international activists managed to make their way to Ben Gurion Airport. Not a single one of them took any provocative or violent act. I would like to reiterate the basic facts - though they have already been published extensively by the people concerned themselves, presented on numerous occasions to the international media and published on various websites - and therefore, you must already be familiar with them.
More than a thousand international activists are planning to arrive at Ben Gurion Airport on Sunday, including aged persons, parents with their children and handicapped people in wheelchairs. Their sole aim is to get in a quiet and orderly way to the passport control, like any visitor. Once there, they intend to declare openly and explicitly that they are coming to visit the West Bank at the invitation of various Palestinian civil society organizations as well as of the Mayor of Bethlehem, Dr. Victor Batarseh. If allowed to go through, they intend to leave the airport with no further ado and proceed to their destination. Their program includes being hosted at the Peace Center in central Bethlehem, participating in laying the foundations of a new elementary school in the city, planting fruit trees, rehabilitate wells at villages in the area, and inaugurating a museum. I would like to repeat this point once again: they had no intention of causing any incident at the airport, and therefore the mighty police mobilization is completely unnecessary and a total waste of the taxpayers' money. All that is needed is instruct the passport control officials to answer each and every one of the visitors with the word "Welcome". At a small fraction of the cost of the planned police operation, it would be possible to give each of the visitors a pretty flower on behalf of the State of Israel.
As I wrote to youon the eve of the previous "Fly-in", this mass arrival of activists is a direct reaction to the consistent policy of the Ben Gurion Airport officials, evidently under governmental instructions. When a traveler shows up at the Ben Gurion Airport and openly declares his or her intention to visit West Bank Palestinians, this frank statement would lead to an immediate deportation from the country. Conversely, by lying and fraud, claiming to be an ordinary tourist to Israel, a traveler can get through without any problems and go from the airport directly to the Palestinian territories. Participants in the "Fly-in" could have easily done that, too – but they decided not to lie or cheat and to explicitly declare their intent. It seems to me that the State of Israel, and Israel's National Police specifically, should have encouraged rather than discourage a behavior of honesty and truthfulness on the part of persons arriving at Ben Gurion Airport.
Each day there arrive at the airport delegations of people, Jews and non-Jews, who support the government of Israel's position in the ongoing conflict with the Palestinians. As long as the Palestinians do not posses their own international airport, through which those who want to visit them could come directly, it is inevitable that there would arrive at Israel's airport also people who support the Palestinians and their positions. The State of Israel should respect this fact.
I have no great illusion, Mr. Minister, that this letter will cause you to change your position and cancel the huge, aggressive and completely unnecessary operation which the police intends to carry out at the airport on Sunday. Nevertheless, as an Israeli citizen who cares about this country and its future, I feel duty bound to make this call upon you.
Wishing you and yours a happy Passover
Gush Shalom spokesperson