(ANSAmed) – TEL AVIV, JULY 8 – With a wide-reaching operation that has stretched as far as Europe, Israel today countered attempts by hundreds of political activists to meet at “Lydda” airport (the Arab name for the town of Lod, near Tel Aviv), where, in the presence of Israeli border guards, they were due to start a rally provocatively entitled “Welcome to Palestine”.
More than two hundred activists were stopped as they attempted to board planes at a number of European airports (including Paris, Geneva and Vienna), as a result of “black lists” forwarded to airlines by Israel’s Interior Ministry. Around sixty others were intercepted at Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion airport. These included passengers of the Alitalia flight from Rome.
Half of these passengers (Belgian, French, American, Spanish, German and Dutch) were immediately ordered to return home. For the others, checks by the Israeli Interior Ministry are continuing.
Israeli police had planned for the event by raising the level of alert in the airport’s arrival hall and in areas close to the airport, in an attempt to prevent solidarity protests by left-wing Israeli activists. The several hundred police involved, however, were not called into action.
The day’s only incident occurred when six Israeli activists appeared in the arrivals hall displaying small placards carrying pro-Palestinian slogans, but they were countered within minutes by other passengers. “Go off to Syria”, someone was heard to shout, before police restored order.
From the West Bank city of Ramallah, the measures taken by the Israeli police appeared somewhat exaggerated. “Israel has turned the airport into a fortress,” said the Palestinian MP, Mustafa Barghuti. Yet he believes that, like on previous occasions, the activists will manage to infiltrate Israel’s security barrier and reach the West Bank, where they will take part in activities of civil engagement. Even the mainstream newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth considered the government-ordered police measures to be excessive.
“What danger could come from a few hundred activists?” asked one columnist. “Their threat is certainly less significant than that posed by the jellyfish,” a reference to the sea creatures that in recent weeks have besieged the Israeli Mediterranean and are threatening the operations of an electrical power plant.
But Benyamin Netanyahu, say other columnists, has other reasons to worry. In a country rich in inquiry commissions, the Israeli Prime Minister could leave things to chance. Taking more preventive steps than strictly necessary was therefore preferable to leaving a chink in the country’s armour. The same logic has been applied in recent weeks to block a flotilla of pro-Palestinian activists at source (in Greek waters) as they boarded a dozen boats with the aim of forcing the maritime blockade on the Gaza Strip.
Meanwhile, the organisers of “Welcome to Palestine” consider the security measures imposed by Israel to be a successful outcome and have already said that similar action will be staged in the future. (ANSAmed).