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Inside Story
Israel: The fear of a 'flytilla'
As Israel stops foreign pro-Palestinian activists flying to Tel Aviv, we ask what impact they can have on the ground.
Last Modified: 18 Apr 2012 13:05

More than 1,000 pro-Palestinian activists were grounded at airports across Europe on Sunday after Israel blocked them from participating in a so-called 'flytilla'.

"When we have provocation after provocation of activists coming to our borders and trying to disrupt the normal lives of Israelis, it's not because they want to make a political message which will further the cause to establish a state of Palestine,  what it is, is political debauchery."

- Gregg Roman, the deputy director of the Gloria Centre

The 'flytilla', organised by the 'Welcome to Palestine 2012' campaign, was staged with the aim of bringing attention to Israel's illegal occupation of the Palestinian territories. But many protesters were prevented from boarding their flights to Tel Aviv after the Israeli government demanded that airlines stop them from flying.

A further 40 activists were detained by the Israeli authorities at Tel Aviv's International Airport.

These events took place as Israel was once again in the spotlight for its handling of pro-Palestinian activists after an Israeli soldier, Lieutenant-Colonel Shalom Eisner, was filmed striking Andreas las, a Danish national participating in a pro-Palestinian bike rally in the occupied West Bank, in the face with his gun.

The Israeli army has suspended the senior officer pending the result of an investigation into the incident.

"It has always been an axiom of the Israeli foreign policy to isolate Palestinians, while the bulldozers work, the olive trees are burnt, people are thrown on the streets and their crimes escalate. We wanted to challenge that by saying that the Palestinian people should not suffer these crimes in isolation."

- Mick Napier from the 'Welcome to Palestine 2012' campaign

This is not the first time the Israeli army's response to activists has caused controversy.

In 2003, Rachel Corrie, a member of the International Solidarity Movement (ISM), was killed as she tried to stop the destruction of a Palestinian village.

The Israeli army says she was killed by falling debris but the ISM maintains that she was deliberately run over by a bulldozer.

In 2010, the Israeli navy intercepted the Turkish ship, the Mavi Marmara, as it sailed towards the Gaza Strip carrying aid. That attack left nine pro-Palestinian activists dead.

So, is Israel over-reacting to the so-called 'flytilla' activists? Why is it so nervous about foreign activists? How much of a difference can foreign activists really make on the ground?

Inside Story, with presenter Divya Gopalan, discusses with guests: Gregg Roman, the deputy director of the Gloria Centre: Mustafa Barghouti, secretary-general of the Palestinian National Initiative; and Mick Napier, the UK coordinator of the 'Welcome to Palestine 2012' campaign.

"What we see here is a severe act of violence by Israel against non-violent acts, non-violent Palestinian resistance.  They use violence against Palestinians all the time and now they are extending their violence, their racism, and their fascist behavior in certain occasions to internationals."

Mustafa Barghouti, the secretary-general of the Palestinian National Initiative

Source:
Al Jazeera
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