Mya Guarnieri: I’m writing this from somewhere in Europe. Sunday morning, I will board a plane* bound for Israel’s Ben Gurion International Airport. Organizers of the “Welcome to Palestine” campaign tell me that more than half the passengers on my flight will be international activists.
When they arrive in Ben-Gurion Airport on Sunday, the activists will openly declare their intent to visit Palestine, more specifically, the West Bank city of Bethlehem, which is in Palestinian Authority-controlled Area A.
While thousands upon thousands of tourists make their way from Israel to Bethlehem every year without a problem, Israeli authorities have made it clear that the activists, who number over 1500, will not be allowed to pass. They will be detained and deported.
The activists have been invited by 25 Palestinian civil society organizations to spend next week in the Bethlehem area building an elementary school, planting trees, and repairing village wells that Palestinians say have been damaged by Israeli settlers.
Israeli authorities say the fly-in is a provocation and an attempt to de-legitimize Israel.
On Sunday, hundreds of undercover policemen and Special Forces will be deployed in Ben Gurion Airport in an attempt to stop the activists–who the Israeli authorities call “hostile elements”– from reaching Bethlehem. Israel has also reportedly sent no-fly lists to foreign airlines and has warned the companies that if they do not comply with the state’s demands to prohibit the activists from boarding, the airlines will have to eat the deportation costs.
Associated Press adds: Mazin Qumsiyeh, a Palestinian campaign organizer, said the activists were coming to exercise their right to visit the Palestinian territories.
“The object is not to fly in to make a protest at the airport. The object is for foreigners to visit us,” Qumsiyeh said. “Even prisoners are allowed visits.”