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  July 10, 2011

'Fly-In' Activists on Mass Deportation from Israel

Hundreds of "Flytilla" activists were interrogated, jailed, and are being deported from Israel
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While the remaining boats in the Free Gaza Movement's flotilla are still trying to leave the Greek ports, activists from around the world organized a mass fly-in known as the Flytilla. The activists were invited by Palestinian groups in a campaign called "Welcome to Palestine" and intended to protest Israel's practice of frequently denying the entry of activists and Diaspora Palestinians into the occupied Territories. The Real News' Lia Tarachansky spoke with Laura Durkay, an American activist, while she was being held in the Ben Gurion airport and with Nadine Nasir, a Canadian of Palestinian origin who has been denied entry into Israel multiple times about the experience of Palestinians trying to enter Israel or the occupied Palestinian territories. Most of the hundreds of activists who participated in the Fly-in never left their countries. One hundred and twenty-four spent the weekend in an Israeli jail and are being deported in stages. After extensive interrogation, four were allowed entry.


LIA TARACHANSKY, TRNN: While the remaining boats in the Free Gaza movement's flotilla are still trying to leave the Greek ports, activists from around the world organized a mass fly-in known as the "Flytilla".

SANDRA RUCH, CANADIAN BOAT TO GAZA, TAHRIR: I understand that you are the one in charge of this harbor. Now, you are the one who keeps stopping us, day after day, from going. Now, there--maybe there's somebody above you, and we'll go to them, but we're not going to leave until you give us permission to get out of this harbor. We have been here for a week. I've been here for three months. We've been spending our money. We've been in your hotels. We're good, solid citizens. We are ready to go.

TARACHANSKY: On Friday, hundreds of activists from around the world were prevented from landing in the Israeli Ben Gurion Airport. The activists were invited by Palestinian groups in a campaign called Welcome to Palestine. The fly-in was meant to protest Israel's practice of frequently denying the entry of activists and diaspora Palestinians into the occupied territories. Israel has only one international airport; hence, activists who wish to volunteer in the West Bank or Gaza must either land in Tel Aviv or in Jordan. In response to Israel's frequent refusal of entry and deportation of activists, most do not declare that their intention is to visit the occupied Palestinian territories. Like the boat flotillas were prevented from leaving the Turkish and Greek ports, so were most of the hundreds of activists prevented from even boarding their flights to Israel. On Wednesday, the Israeli minister of interior sent a letter to many airlines, alongside a list of passengers they were to deny boarding the planes.

UNIDENTIFIED (SUBTITLED TRANSL.): The airlines have given us a document from the Israeli Interior Ministry banning us from taking the flight. And the airlines have executed an order coming from the Israeli Interior Ministry, and we are on French territory.

TARACHANSKY: The letter warned that failure to comply will result in a delay in the flight and their return on the same flight. While most activists weren't allowed to even leave their home countries, dozens arrived and are being deported. According to police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld, "Over 120 passengers were denied entry and are awaiting deportation for security reasons". The Real News spoke with Laura Durkay, an activist from the United States, shortly after she landed.

LAURA DURKAY: I'm with a group of about ten Brits and myself and one other American. We all went up to passport control. We stated truthfully that we were here to visit Palestinians in Bethlehem, and we were all pulled over for extra questioning. I think it does expose a policy of the Israeli government that people have always experienced on an individual level, which is that if you say you are here to visit Palestinians, there's a high likelihood that you will be denied entry or deported, or at least given extensive questioning. Anything that happens to internationals is a, you know, clear reflection of the obstacles that Palestinians face. Many Palestinians who were born abroad are never able to enter Palestine, even though it's a country of their ancestry.

TARACHANSKY: Meanwhile, Israeli activists gathered at the airport in solidarity.

MICHAL VEXLER, ISRAELI ACTIVIST: I saw a lot of people holding signs there saying "Jenny" or /mVm/ or things like that. And we also held signs saying, "Welcome to Palestine" or "Salemu Aleikum" ["Welcome" in Arabic] or "Marhaba" ["Hello"]. And people who held signs to greet the activists were immediately dragged out. Most of them were arrested.

CROWD: Free, free Palestine!


MATAN COHEN, ISRAELI ACTIVIST: I'm from Tel Aviv. We're here to support the international movement for solidarity [crosstalk]

UNIDENTIFIED: What's your second name?

COHEN: Matan Cohen.


COHEN: Of Tel Aviv. Look how scared they are that people are coming to protest nonviolently against an apartheid state, against the siege, against an entire civilian population. End this occupation now. Oy-yoy-yoy!

ATTACKER: Bastard.



TARACHANSKY: Also arrested was Larry Derfner, a left-wing contributor to The Jerusalem Post.



LARRY DERFNER (SUBTITLED TRANSL.): What did they do? Did they hurt anyone? No! So you shut up! They didn't hurt anyone.


CROWD: Free, free Palestine!

BYSTANDER (SUBTITLED TRANSL.): Syrian President Bashar Assad kills a lot more people! So go to Syria.

VEXLER (SUBTITLED TRANSL.): Israel has been silencing pro-Palestinian activists for 40 years. I've come here to say that they won't be able to control another nation forever. This situation of apartheid and occupation will end, with the help of solidarity.

PASSERBY: She's not a Jew! A Jew? She's a bitch!

PASSERBY: Go work the streets!

PASSERBY: You're a German!



TARACHANSKY: Throughout their arrests, the Israeli activists were repeatedly hit, spat on, and insulted by passersby, whom the police ignored. Among the enormous police force sent to the Israeli airport in anticipation of the activists were several undercover and intelligence officers. Two Israeli journalists with connection to the Israeli left and who frequently cover solidarity protests were detained while trying to cover the action. While filming for The Real News, I was detained alongside them.


UNIDENTIFIED (SUBTITLED TRANSL.): You want a response? I'll give you an official response.

TARACHANSKY (SUBTITLED TRANSL.): Yes, give me an official response.

UNIDENTIFIED: Apply through the proper authorities, and you'll get a personal official response from me.

TARACHANSKY: But as you said, the main reason you're throwing us out is for security reasons?

UNIDENTIFIED: That's right.

TARACHANSKY: Security reasons?


TARACHANSKY: Three journalists are a security threat to you? There are hundreds of journalists here. You're not kicking them out.


TARACHANSKY (ENGLISH): As part of Israel's policy of refusing the right of return to Palestinian refugees that were expelled or who fled in 1948, Israel frequently denies the entry of diaspora Palestinians and their descendants into the country, even for short visits. Nadine Nasir is a Canadian of Palestinian origin whose grandparents became refugees in 1948 when Israel was created. She has also been repeatedly denied entry into Israel. Here she recalls the first time she was interrogated at the Israeli airport.

NADINE NASIR, GRANDDAUGHTER OF 1948 PALESTINIAN REFUGEES: I was asked a number of questions. Were your parents born here? And when I said no, then they asked, have your parents ever lived here before? And as soon as I said yes, the woman that was sitting at the passport control desk slammed my passport down and sent me to a room. And the room was actually--it was, like, a waiting room for other Arabs. I was called in to another waiting room with a woman who became my main interrogator, again, referring to indigenous people's [incompr.] that the situation in Israel is very--the situation in Canada is very similar to the situation in Israel. If you lived in Israel, would you work on behalf of the state of Israel to kick Palestinians off their land? And so I was taken aback by this question and didn't want to answer. They had my hands, my arms back, so--and I was being walked. So, like, it was still a scene, and people were still seeing it. And I wanted them to know what was happening. I wanted them to know I'm not some sort of a criminal, I'm not some sort of, like, a threat to the state of Israel. I am just Palestinian. And so I was trying to tell people that without screaming it out, because I didn't want to go to jail. And so I kept saying, in a slightly lower voice, but so that those directly around me could hear, I kept repeating: was I denied entry to Israel just because I'm Palestinian? Right before they were putting me right on the plane, one of the security guards said, no, it's because you're not Jewish.

TARACHANSKY: Most of the hundreds of activists who participated in the fly-in never left their countries. A hundred and twenty-four spent the weekend in an Israeli jail and are being deported in stages. After extensive interrogation, four were allowed entry.

End of Transcript

DISCLAIMER: Please note that transcripts for The Real News Network are typed from a recording of the program. TRNN cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.


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