Massive contingent of police and special forces will attempt to block entry of pro-Palestinian ‘fly-in’ activists on Sunday; activists say airport has no authority to deny them entry.
Hundreds of police and special forces will converge on Ben-Gurion Airport to block the entry of pro-Palestinian activists on Sunday, but human rights activists say the airport has no authority to deny entry to anyone intending to visit the Palestinian territories.
Hundreds of police officers, most of them in plainclothes and unarmed, will await the so-called fly-in at Ben-Gurion on Sunday, while special forces will deploy outside the terminal.
The foreign, transportation, interior and public security ministries are working together to thwart the protest with as little commotion as possible, in a bid to prevent the activists from achieving a public relations victory, officials said.
The Interior Ministry has given airlines the names of activists who are denied entry to Israel and told them that if any activists arrive, the airlines will have to fly them back at the companies’ expense.
Last summer Israel thwarted a similar fly-in, when around 200 activists were not allowed to board flights at their country of origin. Others were detained at Ben-Gurion Airport.
Undercover police agents will staff passport control counters, seen as the first possible friction point between the activists and the authorities, police sources said.
The police will turn over any activists they apprehend to the Immigration Authority, which will seek to put them on the earliest flights out of Israel.
Failing that, the activists will be taken to a Prison Service detention center until they leave the country.
Police sources said they knew of Israeli anarchists’ plans to meet the visiting activists and hold demonstrations at the terminal, at roadblocks and in Jerusalem.
The police also say they will not allow far-right activists to clash with the activists at the airport or engage in any other sort of protest there.
Human rights attorney Omer Shatz said the airport authorities were not authorized to deny entry to the West Bank – only the military, which is the sovereign in the territories.
This is because a visitor to the Palestinian Authority who lands at the airport has no choice but to pass through Israel to reach a border crossing and ask the Israel Defense Forces for an entry permit to the West Bank, he said.
Last year a court granted a petition Shatz submitted on behalf of two activists who arrived on the fly-in and were detained at the airport. The two, former Australian parliamentarian Phyllis Sylvia Hale and Vivienne Porzsolt, a member of Jews Against the Occupation from New Zealand, asked to visit the West Bank.
The Petah Tikva Central Court ruled that the interior minister cannot deny the request of a person who declares at the airport that he is heading for the West Bank. Since the West Bank is under military rule, a person traveling there must be allowed passage to the border crossing, where he may ask to be allowed in.
Any other interpretation the interior minister makes regarding a trip in the West Bank implies annexing the territories, the court ruled.
The court revoked the expulsion order that had been issued to the petitioners, ordered their release and allowed them to enter Israel for 24 hours to enable them to travel to the West Bank.
Ultimately the two were not allowed to enter the West Bank and had to turn back.
A day after granting the petition, the court denied a petition by another pro-Palestinian activist from Germany and allowed her deportation, based on an intelligence opinion submitted by the state and the argument that she did not cooperate with the investigators in the case.
The fly-in organizers have said the activists plan to declare on their arrival that they are traveling to the West Bank as part of the Welcome to Palestine campaign.
The Interior Ministry’s Population and Immigration Authority said that since the entry from Ben-Gurion Airport is entry into Israel, it is authorized to grant or deny entry.
The Gush Shalom movement asked the public security minister yesterday to call off the police deployment ahead of the fly-in, calling it “unnecessary” and a “waste of taxpayer money.”
The movement said the fly-in was believed to consist of more than 1,000 activists, including elderly people, parents with children and disabled people in wheelchairs.
“Their only purpose is to pass quietly and in an orderly way through passport control like any other visitor and declare openly and explicitly that they have come to visit the West Bank, at the invitation of various Palestinian civil groups and Bethlehem Mayor Victor Batarseh,” Gush Shalom’s spokesman Adam Keller said in the letter.
“They plan to stay at the Peace Center in Bethlehem and help lay the foundations of an elementary school, plant trees, renovate wells in villages and inaugurate a museum.”
According to Keller, “They have no intention of engaging in any provocation at the airport, so the huge police force is unnecessary and a complete waste of taxpayer money.”
The public security minister’s spokesman said he would not comment on requests to the minister via the media.