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Saturday July 9, 2011 10:00 AM (EST+7)
Israel orders pro-Palestinian air passengers deported

Read more: Welcome to Palestine, air flotilla, Tel Aviv, airport, right to enter, visa, movement and access, Ben Gurion

BEN-GURION AIRPORT, Israel, July 8 (Na'ama Shilony/Reuters) - Israel on Friday ordered the deportation of at least 65 incoming air passengers suspected of being pro-Palestinian activists and prevented hundreds of others from boarding flights for Tel Aviv.

Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said more than 300 people were questioned on Friday after flying in to Tel Aviv and were allowed to stay, and others arriving on later flights would also undergo questioning.

He said some flights were told to park near the airport's less crowded domestic terminal where passengers disembarked and underwent an initial check.

After Greece grounded a flotilla that hoped to sail to the Gaza Strip this month in a protest against Israel's blockade of the enclave, protesters mobilized to flock to Ben-Gurion Airport near Tel Aviv, in a challenge to Israeli curbs on entry to the occupied West Bank.

Hundreds of pro-Palestinian activists were also prevented from flying to Israel from airports abroad, after Israel told airlines that certain people on passenger lists would not be allowed into the country.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu denounced the activists as provocateurs. His government ordered a crackdown, citing concern for public order at Israel's main gateway to the world, and fear that foreign sympathizers would reinforce Palestinian rallies.

Scores of activists, told they would not be allowed to board flights to Israel from France, Germany and Switzerland, denounced what they called an abuse of power.

I am absolutely shocked that it is even possible that I am being blacklisted without any evidence that I have done anything at all, one of them, Cynthia Beat, told Reuters in Berlin.

Apparently, it is sufficient to state that you would like to go to Palestine, to spend time with Palestinians, in order to be banned from Israel.

Palestinians have no airport of their own, making travel through Ben-Gurion, just 10 km (6 miles) from the West Bank, the most direct route for visitors from abroad.

According to Israel's biggest-selling newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth, the government gave European airlines a list of 342 suspected activists who would be turned back at Ben-Gurion, with the carriers bearing the cost of flying them home.


What we can confirm is that there have been approximately 200 people that have not gotten on the airplanes overseas, Rosenfeld said.

That's due to the fact ... that the international companies that are flying out realized that those individuals would have to fly back and won't be allowed inside Israel and therefore financially it was not worth them taking the risk.

Earlier police arrested six Israelis who demonstrated against the clampdown at Ben-Gurion. One screamed Free Palestine in Arabic as she was dragged out of the terminal. Two American women who flew in overnight were deported, Rosenfeld

Palestinian organizer Mazen Qumsieh said some potential visitors would give themselves away by naming Palestine as their destination rather than telling Israeli immigration officers they were pilgrims, as many travelers do.

We did not request that they do that, Qumsieh said. He added he was satisfied with the publicity over the crackdown.

Mick Napier, a member of the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign, said he intended to risk being detained at Ben-Gurion.

I think your prime minister, Netanyahu, is kind of really over the top in suggesting that peaceful visitors flying in to the airport and then taking the bus to (the West Bank city of)Bethlehem was in some way a threat to the security of the state, he told Israel's Army Radio by telephone.

You can win the battle and lose the war here.

Israeli counter-demonstrator Michelle Marshalian, apparently unaffected by the beefed-up police presence at Ben-Gurion, held a sign urging protesters to go instead to Syria, Libya and other Arab states roiled by revolts against autocratic regimes.

I think it is very hypocritical that so many people are activists against Israel, Marshalian said.

(Writing by Dan Williams and Ori Lewis; Additional reporting by Catherine Bremer in Paris and Martin De Sa'Pinto in Zurich; editing by Tim Pearce)






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