Israel braces for arrival of hundreds of pro-Palestinian activists
Five leftists from Belgium, France refused entry to Israel; hundreds more expected.
Around 600 police officers will deploy at Ben-Gurion International Airport to stop the hundreds if not thousands of pro-Palestinian activists arriving on flights today. The protesters are coming by air in lieu of the stymied Gaza flotilla.
The police believe that beginning early Friday, activists will start arriving on 50 flights from throughout Europe. If they get in, they are expected to try to reach locations in both Israel and the territories.
Some activists have already entered the country; they were not stopped so as not to create unnecessary friction. But five activists from Belgium and France were detained and deported after they landed at Ben-Gurion.
The police are in charge of the situation, but the command post to be set up today is to be staffed jointly by the police, intelligence personnel, the Interior Ministry, the Israel Airports Authority and the Foreign Ministry.
The Transportation Ministry has told foreign airlines to present their lists of passengers to Israel 48 hours before takeoff. Israeli airport security personnel in Europe have been instructed to convey information about passengers who seem suspicious.
If a plane takes off with a suspect on board, that person will be detained at Ben-Gurion and be put back on a plane to his home country before he reaches passport control.
Police expect the first wave of activists to land at around 1 A.M. Friday.
If it is believed a few dozen activists are on a given plane, the plane will be told to land on an outer runway, and the passengers will be closely questioned. People considered problematic will be detained by airport security and the others will be taken by bus to the main terminal, Terminal 3, and enter Israel as usual.
Another possibility is that all passengers from planes defined as problematic will be processed at a separate terminal, Terminal 1.
The police were told in a briefing that "when you enter the airport, it will be as if you are entering the set of 'Big Brother,'" a reality show. In other words, all eyes will be on them.
The police are concerned that they will be goaded into using force and then filmed by activists who will disseminate the clips worldwide. Therefore, most most personnel will be undercover and not wear anti-riot gear or carry weapons. Arrests, if needed, will be made quickly without other activists noticing.
The Justice Ministry is also involved in preparations, assuming that people slated for deportation will appear at the High Court of Justice.
Police special forces are to be deployed outside the airport building in case of extreme situations; for example, if an activist attempts self-immolation.
The police are also watching activists in Israel to make sure they do not go to the airport to join in the protests.
Security personnel have been beefed up on flights to Israel to prevent clashes between pro-Palestinians and Israeli passengers.
Dr. Mazin Qumsiyeh, an activist against the security fence from Beit Sahur, told Haaretz yesterday that activists entering Israel is not a one-time event.
"We are receiving European, South American and sometimes Japanese activists all the time - sometimes via the Allenby Bridge and sometimes from the airport - to work on a variety of projects for the community. Some take an active part in the struggle against the fence and against the settlements. This is something people want to make a big deal about because of the number of people coming."