More than 60 percent of the 1,500 pro-Palestinian activists due to arrive in Israel on Sunday to take part in a fly-in protest have received notifications from airlines that their flights were canceled, the spokesman for the "Welcome to Palestine" protest told Haaretz on Saturday.
The activists were planning to arrive in Israel to participate in a protest against West Bank settlement construction that was scheduled to take place on Sunday. Last July, a similar “fly-in” took place, with more than 300 international activists arriving in Israel. Of those activists, 120 were detained.
Among the airlines that notified the activists of flight cancelations were Lufthansa, Air France and Easyjet, Dr. Mazin Qumsiyeh, a Bethlehem-based spokesman for the protest said, adding that the activists are threatening to take legal action against the airlines.
"Israel passed lists of hundreds of activists to companies, along with a letter in which it claimed that they were coming to carry out a provocation and disturb the peace, and this is just not true. It is very unfortunate that these companies bowed to Israeli pressure," said Qumsiyeh, who added that he has no doubt that some of the activists and Palestinian organizations - including his own - will pursue legal action against the companies.
According to the spokesman, hundreds of activists will manage to board flights to Israel's Ben-Gurion airport, and declare their intention to travel on to the West Bank upon their arrival.
Dozens of Israeli activisits are due to await the arrival of the fly-in protesters at the airport. In a notice published on Saturday, Israeli activists said they will await for the fly-in protesters with "welcome signs" and "open arms."
Dozens of pro-Palestinian activists were prevented from boarding Israel-bound flights on Friday, due to the fact that their names appeared on the blacklist distributed by the Israeli government to a number of European airlines.
Police are planning to intercept participants in the "Welcome to Palestine" actions at the airport and prevent their entry into the country. Hundreds of police officers are expected to be stationed at the airport ahead of their arrival, most of them unarmed and clothed in civilian dress.
'Thank you for choosing Israel'
Meanwhile, the Prime Minister's Office published on Saturday the text of a sarcastic letter that will be handed out to the pro-Palestinian activists upon their arrival. The letter "thanks" activists for "choosing" to make Israel the object of their "humanitarian concerns."
"We know there were many other worthy choices," it says, and goes on to list a number of other such "choices": Syria, Iran and the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip.
"You could have chosen to protest the Syrian regime's daily savagery against its own people, which has claimed thousands of lives," the letter says.
"You could have chosen to protest the Iranian regime's brutal crackdown on dissent and support of terrorism throughout the world."
"You could have chosen to protest Hamas rule in Gaza, where terror organizations commit a double war crime by firing rockets at civilians and hiding behind civilians", says the letter.
The letter states that activists chose "to protest against Israel, the Middle East's sole democracy, where women are equal, the press criticizes the government, human rights organizations can operate freely, religious freedom is protected for all and minorities do not live in fear."
The text concludes by suggesting that the activists "solve first the real problems of the region, and then come back and share with us your experience," before wishing them "a nice flight."