By Ira Glunts
According to Ha’aretz (Hebrew),* two American women who were would-be passengers on the “Audacity of Hope” became the first of the flotilla activists to directly confront the Israeli blockade, not of Gaza, but that of the West Bank. The two did not attempt to go to Gaza by boat as planned, instead they flew to Israel from Athens and appeared at Ben-Gurion airport today (July 8) wearing t-shirts identifying themselves as participants in the flotilla. In so doing, they joined the “Welcome to Palestine” protest which has been dubbed the “flytilla.”
The two women, whose photographs appeared in the newspaper were not named by the paper. They were briefly questioned by airport officials, then placed on an airplane bound for the United States.
At the airport, the “flytilla” protesters declared their intention to travel to the West Bank in order to demonstrate that the Israelis do not permit foreigners free access to the occupied territories. They made their point loudly and clearly as reported by the media worldwide. Although the protesters declared that their intentions were to participate in only legal non-violent activities, 65 people were jailed and four were placed on departing airplanes. Israeli authorities said the detainees would be deported this Sunday.
Israel stopped other protesters by “going Greek,” that is enlisting the aid of foreign authorities in stopping activists at the point of departure from reaching territory controlled by the Jewish state. The Israelis distributed a of list of 342 names of persons they wanted banned to numerous European airports. All the foreign airlines complied, restricting flights of about 200 people, according to the Israeli media.
Some of the passengers that were prohibited from boarding flights to Tel Aviv are threatening lawsuits against the airlines that stopped them from boarding. Also, organizers of at least two of the flotilla boats docked in Greece, the Tahrir and the Juliano, are pursuing administrative and legal avenues to have the Greek travel ban to Gaza lifted. There are activists who have left Greece that are ready to return if the boats are permitted to sail.
What can Barack Obama do to prove that he can be as heavy-handed and obsequious as the Greeks and the European airlines that have demonstrated in the last few days that they are ready, willing and able to bully hundreds of dangerous and provocative non-violent activists that hold the odd opinion that the Israeli occupation is both illegal and immoral? After all, the elections are coming, and this is a great excuse to act tough and pompous which I think he really enjoys.
The President can take the advice of his own State Department and publicly and personally order the Attorney General to seek prison terms for the two American provocateurs that tried to assault our “good friend and ally, Israel” by both sea and air. In doing this, our President could pledge that he is making one thing perfectly clear to all peace-loving Americans: Barack Obama will do all in his power to support Israel’s right of self-defense.
* An English version of the Ha’aretz article is here. Note there is no mention or photograph of the two American women.
Update 1: The Jerusalem Post quotes police as saying that 69 “flytilla” activists have already been deported (althought the headline says 39) and an additional 124 are being detained.
Also, the paper quotes Deputy Prime Mininister Danny Ayalon making an over-the-top comment which characterizes his government’s insane overreaction to this peaceful protest.
Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon thanked European countries on Saturday for helping to limit the number of pro-Palestinian activists arriving at Ben-Gurion Airport. Ayalon said that “Israel thanks the European countries for their assistance and cooperation in preventing the provocative “air flotilla” that was planned.”
“Again it proved that contrary to conventional thought, Israel is not isolated and is a reputable player in the international community,” the deputy minister added. Ayalon said that “no country would allow a violation of its sovereignty and laws, not by local law breakers and certainly not foreigners.”
Update 2: The website of the “Audacity of Hope” has a tweet identifying the two women as Kathy Kelly and Missy Lane. However, neither woman pictured appears to me to resemble other photographs of Kathy Kelly on the Net.