Israel readies itself for mass fly-in

By Nathan Jeffay, April 12, 2012
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Israel is preparing itself for a mass fly-in by Palestinian activists from around the world.

Hundreds of activists plan to board planes across Europe on Sunday and Monday and touch down at Ben Gurion airport to protest what they have described in a statement as "Israel's giant system of control" which prevents "the imprisoned Palestinians" from receiving international visitors.

Last year, many of the same activists attempted a similar fly-in, but most were, on Israel's request, prevented from boarding their flights by airlines. Organisers claim that if they are stopped this year it will prove that Israel "has crossed another red line in its denial of Palestinian human rights".

Palestinians are particularly keen to see this effort succeed to regain face after the Global March from Jerusalem, which promised to have two million people in a solidarity march towards Jerusalem, proved an
anti-climax.

Paul Hirschson, spokesman for Israel's Foreign Ministry, said that it believes that many of the participating activists were banned from Israel for misconduct during previous visits. People falling in to this category, he said, will not enter the country.

On other activists, his ministry fears that if allowed in they will "initiate provocative demonstrations".

Israeli security is on high alert in anticipation for the arrival of the activists. There will be hundreds of security officials at the airport on Sunday, including many from the police force, prison service and other agencies. Undercover agents are expected to eb operating at passport control to identify potential troublemakers, and to stop the fly-in disrupting tourists flying in and out of Israel.

The authorities have been told to act with restraint, while activists have been warned that they could face deportation on arrival.

    Last updated: 10:47am, April 12 2012