Two protesters, of French and Italian citizenship, succeed in making it past Israeli security and into Bethlehem; 43 activists denied entry into Israel at Ben-Gurion Airport.
Two pro-Palestinian activists that took part in the fly-in protest to Israel succeeded in making it past security at Ben-Gurion Airport and arrived in Bethlehem on Sunday, saying they were “treated like terrorists.”
The two female protesters, who hold French and Italian citizenship, held a press conference upon arrival in Bethlehem and recounted their experience.
Israel Police said Sunday that 43 activists were denied entry at Ben-Gurion Airport – 31 were transferred to Givon detention center and 12 were deported to their country of origin. Nine leftist activists who protested at the airport were also held for investigation.
One of the two activists who arrived in Bethlehem, a 23-year-old French citizen of Algerian descent, told Haaretz that she arrived at the Lyon airport in France with a group of 50 activists. Half of them were unable to board the plane after being blocked by French police, and the others, who succeeded in landing in Israel, were held and are expected to be deported.
“The security forces in France and Israel treated us like criminals,” she said. “It is very frustrating and surprising that French authorities cooperated with Israel’s claims and propaganda.”
She said the airports in Lyon and in Israel looked like military bases. “They treated us like criminals or terrorists, despite the fact that we made it clear that we came for peaceful purposes.”
The activist, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said she was very happy that she made it past Israeli security. “I plan on staying here for a week and take part in activism for the Palestinian people,” she said. “I want to meet with as many people as I can and hear from them about what is going on, as well as take part in building an international school in Bethlehem.” She added that she believes the French people support the Palestinians and their struggle for independence, and said that the actions by the French security forces in stopping the activists does not reflect French public opinion.
The fly-in activists were planning to arrive in Israel to participate in a protest against West Bank settlement construction that was scheduled to take place on Sunday. Last July, a similar “fly-in” took place, with more than 300 international activists arriving in Israel. Of those activists, 120 were detained.
On Saturday, the spokesman for the “Welcome to Palestine” protest told Haaretz that more than 60 percent of the 1,500 pro-Palestinian activists due to arrive in Israel on Sunday have received notifications from airlines that their flights were canceled.
Among the airlines that notified the activists of flight cancellations were Lufthansa, Air France and Easyjet, Dr. Mazin Qumsiyeh, a Bethlehem-based spokesman for the protest said, adding that the activists are threatening to take legal action against the airlines.
“Israel passed lists of hundreds of activists to companies, along with a letter in which it claimed that they were coming to carry out a provocation and disturb the peace, and this is just not true. It is very unfortunate that these companies bowed to Israeli pressure,” said Qumsiyeh, who added that he has no doubt that some of the activists and Palestinian organizations – including his own – will pursue legal action against the companies.
By Jack Khoury and Yaniv Kubovich