Israel cannot legally ban pro-Palestinian activists bound for West Bank

Israel‘s Interior Ministry has no authority to refuse entry to activists taking part in Sunday‘s pro-Palestinian fly-in protest, a lawyer who represented activists detained in last year’s protest claims. The fly-in protest, part of a campaign entitled “Welcome to Palestine,” is due to take place on Sunday with the arrival of thousands of international activists at Ben-Gurion Airport. Last July, a similar “fly-in” took place, with over 300 international activists arriving in Israel, and 120 detained. Israeli pro-Palestinian activists at Ben-Gurion International Airport on July 8, 2011. Attorney Amar Schatz, who represented two Australian activists who arrived at Ben-Gurion Airport for last year’s protest, but were refused entry at the airport, claims that the interior minister is not mandated to refuse entry at the airport based on a visitor’s desire to travel to the West Bank, as the territory is under military control, and given that Israel surrounds Palestine on all sides, travelers have no choice but to pass through Israel in order to reach a checkpoint and ask for permission to enter Palestine. Schatz says that last year he submitted an appeal on behalf of a former Australian member of parliament, Phyllis Hale, and a friend of hers from New Zealand, who is a member of the organization “Jews for Palestine.” The court accepted the appeal, based on the principle that the interior minister cannot refuse entry to anyone who declares on arrival at Ben-Gurion Airport that they intend to travel to the West Bank, because the area is under miltary control. The interior ministry cannot refuse a request that is under the mandate of the military authority, and must allow those who intend to travel to the West Bank to enter Israel and request permission to travel to Palestinian territories. Such a decision by the interior minister would be tantamount to annexation of the territories, according to Schatz. The court ordered the cancellation of the deportation order against the two women, ordered their release on bail, and allowed the two to enter Israel for a 24-hour period, despite the fact that they had not concealed their intention to travel to Israel as part of the fly-in protest. The two were not granted permission to enter the West Bank, and had to leave the country. A day after the two women were granted permission to enter Israel, the court refused the request of another German activist. The court ordered her to be deported based on Israeli intelligence and the claim that she had not cooperated with investigators. Organizers of the fly-in protest said that the activists who will be arriving at Ben-Gurion on Sunday do not intend to lie about their intentions to travel to the West Bank when they land at the airport. The immigration authority responded that entrance through Ben Gurion Airport is to Israeli territory only, regardless of where visitors go afterwards, and that, as such, the Population and Immigration Authority is responsible for entry according to Israel’s Law of Entry. Meanwhile, Gush Shalom peace bloc activists urged the Minster for Public Security Yitzhak Aharonovitch on Wednesday to cancel the security measures being taken ahead of the arrival of the international left-wing activists to Ben Gurion Airport. A text written by Gush Shalom said that, according to information the organization had received, the fly-in protests will comprise over 1000 international activists, including elderly activists, parents with children, and physically-challenged activists in wheelchairs. “Their only goal is to go through passport control like any other visitor, and state clearly that they are coming to visit the West Bank after following an invitation by various civilian Palestinian organizations,” Gush Shalom wrote. “They have no intention of carrying out a provocation at the airport, and as such the massive police force preparation is unnecessary and a waste of tax-payers’ money,” wrote Gush Shalom spokesperson, Adam Keller. Aharonovitch’s spokesperson said in response that he does not intend to respond to such appeals through the media. Israel Police are preparing to send reinforcements to Ben-Gurion Airport next Sunday to prevent the entry of a large group of pro Palestinian activists planning to journey to the West Bank. Their effort is part of a campaign entitled “Welcome to Palestine.” Aharonovitch, in charge of dealing with the fly-in, indicated on Sunday that there has been extensive preparation and planning, similar to preparation leading up to the last year’s protest.

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