Mon 11th July 2011; NO EMBARGO
Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign: Media Release
ISRAEL TO DEPORT UK BETHLEHEM TRAVELLERS IMMINENTLY
Two of the twelve UK nationals detained by Israel over their intention to travel to the Palestinian town of Bethlehem are set to be deported imminently.
Around 700 internationals had intended to travel to Bethlehem via Israel’s Ben Gurion Airport to meet with Palestinian families and farmers there, and to highlight what they refer to as “Israel’s blockade of the West Bank”. However, at the request of Israeli authorities, most were stopped by airlines from boarding their outbound flights, and those that landed at Tel-Aviv were arrested by Police and airport border guards after citing Bethlehem as their final destination.
UK consular staff told organisers of the Welcome to Palestine initiative that Israeli authorities intended to deport the oldest member of the group, 83 year-old John Lynes, and 64 year-old university lecturer, Mick Napier this evening.
They are set to be flown to London Luton at 1820 UK time, and should arrive at 2355 tonight. Consular staff said that Israeli authorities would be trying to deport the remaining detainees as and when space became available on flights.
Before leaving for Bethlehem, Lynes, a member of Jews for Justice for Palestinians, told friends, “I know I may suffer imprisonment, and am ready to accept the consequences of my decisions in the hope that children in the Middle East may be enabled to grow up in greater safety.”
Speaking by phone while waiting for their flight to leave Tel Aviv tonight, Napier, chair of the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign said, “Some of the men and women being detained started a hunger strike this morning because we were denied any information about any charges against us and were also denied a telephone call over the entire period we were in prison. But we are all in high spirits. Israel’s hysterical response to this peaceful initiative has highlighted the harsh siege of the Occupied West Bank which Israel enforces and many governments wilfully ignore, even to the extent of abandoning their own citizens to Israeli lawlessness.”
According to the New York Times, Israeli commentators have “criticized the country’s leaders for overreacting and for broadcasting an image of insecurity and panic.”
London-based pro-Palestinian activist groups, including London BDS (Boycott Divestment and Sanctions against Israel), and ISM (International Solidarity Movement) are set to welcome the two as they land in Luton tonight.
Organisers of the Palestine visit chose the date of the 'fly-in' to coincide with the 7th anniversary of the International Court of Justice ruling on 9th July 2004 that Israel's West Bank wall, which today almost completely encircles the city of Bethlehem, is illegal.
Notes for editors:
Background, previous media releases, and updates here:
1. “Welcome to Palestine” is a French initiative that now has participation from across Europe and the USA.
The English-language section of the French website can be accessed here: http://bienvenuepalestine.com/?page_id=232
According to the group:
Israel’s standard practice of deporting anyone that they believe supports Palestine means than human rights activists invariably have to lie in order to pass passport control at Tel-Aviv.
However, having nothing to hide, and coming with totally peaceful intentions, we have decided that we are no longer willing to lie in order to do something that no other state would consider illegal.
Government agencies have been informed, and the Israeli authorities have been forwarded all information on our intentions.
Contrary to claims that we aim “to spread chaos at Tel Aviv airport”, our only aim is visit Palestinian families, share their daily life for a week, visit the towns, villages and refugee camps, discover the difficulties encountered by their inhabitants, and experience their culture and expectations.
2. The ICJ ruling on the illegality of Israel’s Apartheid Wall can be found here: www.icj-cij.org/docket/files/131/1677.pdf
3. For Desmond Tutu’s support of an arms embargo on Israel, see Global BDS Movement:
4a. The UK co-ordinator of the initiative is Mick Napier, who, along with the majority of international participants, was due to arrive in Ben Gurion Airport on Friday July 8th.
Mick Napier is the chair of the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign, and can be contacted on:
00 44 (0)7931200361
4b. Sofiah Macleod is the UK-based contact for press enquiries.
Sofiah Macleod: + 44 (0)7958002591 or + 44 (0)131 620 0052 or + 44 (0) 7401631658
5. Details of the UK citizens who had planned to visit Bethlehem, including statements and photos of some, here:
6. Updates available at: www.scottishpsc.org.uk and
Twitter @scottishpsc : http://twitter.com/#!/scottishpsc
7. Jerusalem Post on honesty ensuring deportation:
Jerusalem Post, 4th April 2011:
“700 pro-Palestinian activists plan to land in Ben-Gurion”
8. Quote from New York Times reference criticism of Israeli leaders’ overreaction:
“Israel Blocks Flights to Protest Gathering”
New York Times, 8th July 2011
9. Details of Jerusalem Post reporter, Larry Derfner’s arrest:
“Mobocracy at Ben-Gurion Airport” by Larry Derfner, 8th July 2011
10. Jerusalem Post report of arrest of Israeli Activists:
Jerusalem Post, Friday 8th July 2011
“Aharonovitch: 100 activists expected to land in Israel”
11. Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netenyahu “has ordered Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch to exert all efforts to prevent an infiltration into Israel's borders.”
Haaretz, Wednesday 6th July 2011:
“Israel deports five ahead of anticipated influx of pro-Palestinian activists”
12. Statement from Netenyahu’s office:
"This planned event is a continuation of the attempts to undermine Israel's right to exist and to attempt to breach its borders and sovereignty by sea, land and by air," according to the MAAN news agency.
Maan News Agency, Tuesday 5th July 2011:
“Israel prepares for pro-Palestinian airport protest”
13. Haaretz, Thursday 7th July 2011:
“Israel instructs foreign airlines to prevent departure of 300 pro-Palestinian activists”