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Israel Criminalizes Travel

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Criminalizes TravelIsrael systematically wages war on rule of law principles, truth, equity, justice, and other democratic values.

Even Jews aren't safe. Anyone challenging Netanyahu's regime and earlier ones becomes vulnerable.

Travelers beware. Israel criminalized entry earlier. Rogue officials are at it again.

At issue are so-called "flytilla" activists. Reports suggest about 1,500 planned West Bank trips. Their purpose is peacefully challenging Israel's illegal occupation and bonding with Palestinians they support.

Airflotilla2/Welcome to Palestine 2012 participants plan week-long solidarity actions. About two dozen civil society organizations invited them. So did Bethlehem's mayor.

Planned activities include planting trees, laying a kindergarten cornerstone, repairing damaged wells, peacefully contesting illegal settlement construction, and engaging Palestinians other ways. Their mission is peace and solidarity, not confrontation and violence.

At issue is how many actually will arrive. Israel's going all out to block them. Airlines agreed to go along, Air France, Lufthansa, and Easyjet among them.

Israel sent them lists of likely travelers. It directed reservations and issued tickets be cancelled. Airlines dutifully complied. Reasons affected travelers got are spurious. Some plan legal action in response.

Bethlehem based Dr. Mazin Qumsiyeh said Israel supplied airlines with hundreds of names along with a letter. It falsely claimed they planned provocations on arrival. Airlines know better. Nonetheless, they went along.

Those managing to arrive will be welcomed by dozens of Israeli activists. In a notice published Saturday, they said they await them with "welcome signs" and "open arms."

They'll also inhospitably face hundreds of Israeli security forces. They plan less than gracious greetings. They'll be accosted, interrogated, detained and deported. Some may be treated more harshly. Israel's a serial abuser. Nothing's too extreme in its arsenal. No one's immune from targeting.

In a letter Haaretz obtained, Amnon Shmueli from the Interior Ministry's Population and Immigration Authority said:

"In light of statements by radical pro-Palestinian activists indicating that they intend to arrive on commercial flights from abroad, in order to disturb the peace and confront security forces at Ben Gurion International Airport and at other points of friction, it has been decided to forbid their entrance, in accordance with my authority according to the Law of Entry to Israel."

As a result, he directed European airlines "not to board them onto Israel-bound flights." He threatened punitive actions against airlines unwilling to comply. He said failing "to uphold this directive is liable to lead to leveling of sanctions against" offenders.

Last summer, around 200 travelers on a similar mission never arrived. Airlines cancelled their trips. About 130 entered Israel through Ben-Gurion Airport. They were accosted and arrested on arrival, then detained and deported.

This is how police states operate. Israel's credentials are indisputable. Ruthlessness defines its tactics. Palestinians mainly are persecuted. However, even Jews and foreign travelers are affected.

On April 15, Haaretz headlined, "Israel blocks entry to first pro-Palestinian 'fly-in' activists; hundreds more expected," saying:

On arrival Sunday from Paris, around 30 flytilla participants were arrested and detained. Authorities said those refusing to leave "will be transferred the Israel Prison Services for processing."

A Welcome to Palestine spokesperson told Haaretz that reservations for over 60% of travelers were cancelled. They received "notifications from airlines" informing them. Reasons given were spurious and disingenuous.

Suspected participants will be detained and interrogated on arrival. Those planning West Bank visits will be denied and deported. Anyone refusing will be imprisoned.

On April 15, a Haaretz editorial headlined, "Israel should greet pro-Palestinian activists with flowers," saying:

"Israel is taking extreme-to-hysterical measures to stop activists from flying in, to the point of threatening the airlines."

For justifiable reasons, nations may prevent "hostile elements" from entering their territory. However, activist travelers aren't threatening. Moreover, they plan West Bank, not Israel, visits. Sovereign Palestine alone has say over accepting or rejecting them. Their sole entry points are through Jordan or Ben-Gurion Airport.

Participants expressed willingness to have Israeli police accompany their buses to Bethlehem. "As we know, no one enters or leaves the West Bank - whether by air or land - without Israel's permission and without going through Israel."

Longstanding Israeli blacklists target human rights activists. Having them reveals Israeli repressiveness and siege mentality. In an open letter before departing, travelers offered a message is peace. They called for ending Israel's occupation. They expressed support for Palestinian rights.

Netanyahu's government calls this confrontation and attempts to "delegitimiz(e)" Israel.

It shows authorities "don't understand that their refusal to allow the human rights activists (entry to) the West Bank illustrates more than anything the occupation's lack of legitimacy."

Real democracies practice what they preach. They welcome peace activists openly "with flowers" and treat them graciously while there.

Haaretz writer Gideon Levy addressed the issue in his article headlined, "A lack of vision is making Israel a short-term state," saying:

Unresolved "issues remain pending....Nobody can say what this country will look like in 10 years. Some people even doubt that it will exist by then, an issue not raised about any other country."

Israel has no constitution. Its Basic Laws substitute. It's the only borderless state for good reason. It facilitates lawless land seizures. Israel has grand plans well beyond Judea and Samaria.

A state on the wrong track for decades, a faux democracy, a repressive/racist one, has no "(clear) future....It "wallow(s) in the past and focus(es) on the present....(It shows it's) tantamount to a short-lived state."

No one's doing anything to stop Israel "from rupturing," from "becoming (more of) a pariah, even more than already."

Today, Sunday, when hundreds of security forces "bravely storm a handful of human rights activists and harshly turn them away....solely for seeking to visit Bethlehem in a display of solidarity, few people" take issue and protest.

Scoundrel media, judicial authorities, and ordinary Israelis do nothing "to stop this disgrace." Israel's silent majority, like its US counterpart, has much to answer for.  Levy wonders if Israel's future hangs in the balance.

Continued human rights abuses may shorten its lifespan. Maybe then Palestine could be free, and Jews and Arabs again could live side by side in peace.

Imagine the difference that would make. Maybe the idea would spread. It's something to hope and work for. The benefits are too great to ignore, the alternative too grave to accept. The time to go for it is now.


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