Israel begins deportation of pro-Palestinian 'flytilla' activists
The first group of 36 Europeans who were refused entry to the country have boarded a Lufthansa flight to Frankfurt.
The deportation of European tourists who entered the country en masse as part of the 'flytilla' with the intention of entering the West Bank to visit destinations in the Palestinian Authority began on Sunday.
The first group of 36 people who were refused entry to the country were brought directly from incarceration, where they were held over the weekend, to Ben-Gurion International Airport, where they boarded a Lufthansa flight for Frankfurt.
Another group of activists is expected to be deported on Monday on a Geneva -bound flight. The group originally arrived from Switzerland with the carrier EasyJet. Is it expected that the rest of the activists will deported in the days to come.
Previously, Lufthansa refused to take a group of 50 pro-Palestinian activists from Paris via Frankfurt to Tel Aviv, because the activists' names appeared on a 'black list' prepared by the authorities. Despite the move, another group of activists managed to arrive on a direct flight from Frankfurt.
Executives of the European airlines registered a grievance on Sunday over a political position against the 'flytilla' participants being attributed to them because they helped prevent the activists from reaching Israel.
The airlines were upset with Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon's comments made to the media to the effect that Israel's diplomatic efforts led to the airlines' cooperation in preventing the entrance of the activists.
"We are a commercial business. The fact that we prevented the activists from boarding the planes is no evidence of our supporting the State of Israel against the activists, or the opposite. Our actions are bereft of any political statement for one side or another," said the manager of a European airline in Israel.
"It's a shame that there are government officials that are exploiting this incident for political points on the backs of the airlines," he added.
A representative of Lufthansa said, "Like other airlines, we received information from the Israeli authorities, about specific passengers that would be refused entry to the country and as such they were not allowed to board the planes to Israel. Lufthansa is obliged to honor the immigration rules and regulations of the countries we fly to."
"As a result, Lufthansa is obligated not to fly passengers that do not have entry visas and passengers whose entry is refused by the destination country, as in this case," the Lufthansa representative added.