On Saturday night, hundreds of Israeli police were deployed at Ben Gurion airport near Tel Aviv, to prevent the arrival of foreigners planning to participate in the Welcome to Palestine fly-in campaign, also known as the flytilla.
The flytilla campaign, now in its third year, was expected to welcome an estimated 1,500 participants this year. However, Agence France Presse reported that Israeli police detained 79 people at the airport and, as of Monday, have sent 21 of them back to their native countries. Many other activists planning to arrive in Israel for the campaign's week-long series of peaceful activities in support of Palestine, never even reached Israel.
Israeli security officials reportedly tracked the activists on social media sites and provided names to airlines asking them not to allow these individuals onto their flights.
Consequently, Lufthansa Airlines canceled the tickets of 15 activists who had been set to arrive in Israel on Sunday -- many other airlines, including Alitalia, Air France, and Easyjet, followed suit. The airline companies claimed they made these cancellations in response to threatened sanctions by Israel.
Israel has vowed to deny entry to as many pro-Palestinian activists as possible in order to block their campaign.
Moreover, the Jewish State has prepared an informal and sarcastic welcome to those that do manage to get into the country. The Israeli Prime Minister's office issued a letter addressed to all activists. Although the letter was unsigned, as the New York Times reported, it was marked with the official emblem of the State of Israel.
Dear activist, we appreciate your choosing to make Israel the object of your humanitarian concerns, the letter reads.
We know there were many other worthy choices. You could have chosen to protest the Syrian regime's daily savagery against its own people, which has claimed thousands of lives.
You could have chosen to protest the Iranian regime's brutal crackdown on dissent and support of terrorism throughout the world. You could have chosen to protest Hamas' rule in Gaza, where terror organizations commit a double war crime by firing rockets at civilians and hiding behind civilians.
But instead you chose to protest against Israel, the Middle East's sole democracy, where women are equal, the press criticizes the government, human rights organizations can operate freely, religious freedom is protected for all and minorities do not live in fear.
The letter then concludes, Therefore we suggest to let you solve first the real problems of the region, and then come back and share with us your experience. Have a nice flight.