TEL AVIV, Israel, April 15 (UPI) —
Israeli police blocked activists who attempted to fly into the country to protest Israel’s policies in the West Bank, officials said.
Some 650 policemen were deployed at Israel’s Ben Gurion Airport on Sunday to arrest activists participating in the “Welcome to Palestine 2012,” an event that called on activists worldwide to fly to Israel and protest its treatment of Palestinians and settlements in the West Bank. The organization also called on the activists to visit Palestinian territories.
By Sunday noon, 27 pro-Palestinian activists were refused entry to Israel, Ynetnews.com said. Four Israeli activists were detained for questioning after demonstrating at Israel’s Ben-Gurion Airport, the site said.
Police estimate between 500 to 1,000 activists will arrive at the airport during the day, Israel Radio said.
On arrival the activists will be detained and deported to their point of embarkation, police officials said. They will also be handed an official letter from the government of Israel, Ynetnews.com said.
The letter criticizes the activists for making Israel the object of their humanitarian concerns, saying they could have protested Syria, Iran or Hamas. “But instead you chose to protest against Israel, the Middle East’s sole democracy, where women are equal, the press criticizes the government, human rights organizations can operate freely, religious freedom is protected for all and minorities do not live in fear,” the letter said.
Israel last week sent out lists of activists’ names asking airlines to refrain from flying them to the country, the radio said.
Mazin Qumsiyeh, an organizer of the event, told Haaretz on Saturday that a number of activists planning to travel to Israel received notification that their flights had been canceled.
Qumisiyeh said Lufthansa, Air France and Easyjet were among the companies who canceled the flights and said the organization and activists may consider taking legal action against the airline companies.