A dozen British pro-Palestinian activists were detained in Israel and then deported after taking part in last week's abortive "flytilla" campaign.
The group had flown to Tel Aviv's Ben-Gurion airport and included a number of Jewish protesters, the deputy leader of the Wales Green Party, a Methodist preacher, an 83-year-old Quaker, and the leader of the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign group.
The anti-Israel activists left Britain last Friday morning and were held in Israeli prisons before being deported earlier this week.
As the "flytilla" campaign began, Israeli authorities had issued foreign airlines with a blacklist of more than 340 suspected activists, compiled largely from social networking sites. Hundreds of people were barred from boarding flights, including one American intending to fly from Britain. Officials at airports in Paris, Berlin and Geneva were among those to stop potential passengers.
The activists said they had planned to visit Palestinians in Bethlehem, but were detained after telling border officers of their intentions on arrival at the airport. A few did make it through passport control and gathered in the West Bank town on Sunday at the start of a week of protests.
‘We stopped the defiant fly-in against us’
Awaiting deportation, retired university lecturer John Lynes, 83, said: "I took part because I want us all to live free from fear, from violence and from oppression. I am ready to accept the consequences of my decisions in the hope that children in the Middle East may be enabled to grow up in greater safety."
Mick Napier, chair of the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign, was also detained. He was deported back to Britain on Monday night. He said: "Israel's hysterical response to this peaceful initiative has highlighted the harsh siege of the occupied West Bank which Israel enforces and many governments wilfully ignore, even to the extent of abandoning their own citizens to Israeli lawlessness."
Green Party leader Caroline Lucas MP has written to Foreign Secretary William Hague urging him to question Israeli counterparts "about why peaceful activists have been treated in this way. Does Israel now have a policy of seeking to prevent human rights defenders from entering the occupied territories or entering Israel?"
But Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said: "We stopped the defiant fly-in against the state of Israel. Israel will continue to frustrate provocations and attempts to break through our borders, whether by land, sea or air."