Israel should greet pro-Palestinian activists with flowers
A country that respects human rights in the territories under its control, including the right to nonviolent protest against foreign occupation, must invite peace activists to visit anywhere.
There's something symbolic about the fact that the six-nation talks with Iran and the operation to deport peace activists landing at Ben-Gurion International Airport are happening around the same time. Iran has prevented the International Atomic Energy Agency from entering its nuclear facilities to report on what's going on there, and Israel is preventing human rights activists from entering the occupied territories to check up on human rights.
Israel is taking extreme-to-hysterical measures to stop the activists from flying in, to the point of threatening the airlines. Security forces are preparing to deport the activists who arrive here.
There's something to be said for Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch's assertion that every country has the right to stop hostile elements from entering it. But the European citizens taking part in the so-called flytilla say they don't want to enter Israel, but the West Bank. The activists have proposed that Israeli police accompany their buses to Bethlehem to make sure they're not heading anywhere else.
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.
Blacklists of human rights activists who are denied entry to the territories only highlight the siege that the occupation regime imposes on millions of Palestinians living in the West Bank. In an open letter ahead of their visit, the activists say they're fostering a message of peace and a call for an end to the occupation; they also want to support rights for the Palestinians in the occupied territories.
But Israeli government spokesmen are using the Welcome to Palestine operation in their campaign against the "delegitimization of Israel." It's a shame they don't understand that their refusal to allow the human rights activists into the West Bank illustrates more than anything the occupation's lack of legitimacy.
A country that respects human rights in the territories under its control, including the right to nonviolent protest against foreign occupation, must invite peace activists to visit anywhere and welcome them with flowers.