Israeli authorities detained more than 40 travelers at Ben Gurion International Airport outside Tel Aviv as they tried to break up an effort by pro-Palestinian activists to fly into the country to take part in protests.
At least six Israeli activists were arrested at the airport for causing a disturbance, police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said by telephone. The detained travelers from countries including Canada, France and Germany will be deported, he said.
The detainees were some of more than 1,500 activists from at least 15 countries that had planned to fly to Israel this weekend to protest the government’s policies in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, according to an e-mailed statement from the Welcome to Palestine Campaign.
Several hundred activists were prevented from boarding flights to Israel after the government provided airlines with names of passengers who wouldn’t be permitted to enter the country, said Abdelfattah Abusrour, a spokesman for the activists.
“The airlines had no right to prevent their boarding and some of our members are considering legal action,” Abusrour said by telephone from Bethlehem. Only a few of the activists who arrived today made it through Israeli security, he said.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu chided the activists for choosing to protest against Israel, “the Middle East’s sole democracy,” and suggested they go instead to protest human rights abuses in Syria and Iran. “After that educational trip, they can come here and we’ll talk about what they’ve learned about the Middle East as it actually is,” Netanyahu said today, according to a text message set from his office.