Get Red Pepper's email newsletter. Enter your email address to receive our latest articles, updates and news.

×

Airline blocks activists from travelling to Palestine

Libby Powell reports on how ‘Israel has turned Palestine into a giant prison’—with no visitors allowed

April 15, 2012
5 min read

Budget airline Jet2.com has refused to carry three British women bound for Palestine after being threatened with a fine by Israel. The airline notified the passengers of the cancellation by email yesterday morning, less than 24 hours before they were due to fly to Tel Aviv from Manchester.

The women were en route to Bethlehem with 1,500 others from Europe and the US to take part in an international meeting and an education project. The initiative has been organised under the banner of ‘Welcome to Palestine 2012’, with the aim of challenging the isolation of Palestinians as a result of the Israeli occupation.

Update: After the demonstration in Manchester Airport, the airline promised the passengers refunds. The managers would not even show their faces, leaving the police to pass on the news.

Many visitors, from around the world, did get to Tel Aviv—but were arrested or put on return planes. Israel had ordered around 1,200 people to be kept off flights, and deployed 650 police to patrol Ben Gurion airport and catch any who made it to Israel.

In the email to the British women, Jet2.com said that they had been mandated by the Israeli authorities to provide the details of all passengers on flights to Israel. The company said it had been informed that the group would not be permitted to enter Israel and that the airline would face a fine from Israel if they carried the three women.

The Welcome to Palestine initiative follows on from a series of recent attempts by international activists to push for free access to the Palestinian territories. Last summer, 100 activists attempting to fly to Palestine were detained at Ben Gurion Airport and deported. The violent interception by Israeli forces in 2010 of an international boat, the Mavi Marmara, bound for Gaza’s coastline resulted in the death of nine activists. Several other attempts to reach Gaza by boat have since been deflected by the Israeli navy.

Israel, which maintains a blacklist of identified Palestinian supporters, has in the past put pressure on airlines to refuse passengers. The authorities have made it clear that they intend to bar all those traveling as part of the campaign, stating that measures will be taken at border control to detain and return all passengers to their home countries. Lufthansa has also been forced by Israel to reject dozen of passengers wishing to travel from Swansea for the event.

In a public statement, high profile supporters of the initiative, including Sam Bahour, Tony Benn, Chomsky, John Pilger and Desmond Tutu, said that ‘Israel has turned Palestine into a giant prison’—but make the point that even prisoners have a right to receive visitors.

There is no direct access for foreigners wishing to visit Palestine. Landlocked West Bank is surrounded by the Israeli wall and travel within the region is restricted by more than 500 checkpoints and barriers. Those wishing to visit must first fly to Tel Aviv, where anyone declaring their wish to visit Palestine is likely to be refused entry.

From within Israel, entry by road to the central West Bank city of Ramallah is funneled through the vast Kalandia checkpoint, where cars and people can wait for hours against the backdrop of watchtowers and political graffiti.

Access to besieged Gaza is even more obstructed. The airport was bombed in 2002 and Israel maintains its blockade of all sea, air and land entry points, closing the Strip to all but essential humanitarian staff.

One of the women due to travel from Manchester tomorrow is retired nurse, Norma Turner, who has worked in the NHS since she was 16. In 2010, Norma visited Gaza to help deliver training to nurses and develop a community health course for women in Nusrat refugee camp. ‘My goal was always to empower patients to control their own lives with dignity and without fear,’ she said. ‘For those nurses, it is impossible from them to work with that goal because Palestinian people do not have any control over their own lives.

‘The suffering and injustice that I have witnesses on my visits to Gaza and the West Bank is worse than anything I have experienced in my whole career as a nurse in England, India and Africa.’

Norma was planning to travel with teacher Sandy Broadhurst and fellow NHS health worker Pia Feig. Pia’s rejection by the state is particularly poignant as a Jewish woman with family in Israel. “The Israelis have created a ghetto for the Palestinians”, she says.

Norma says that the group is considering legal action against the airline. They organised a protest at the Jet2.com desk in Manchester Airport this morning.

‘Israel is able to control any border it chooses, including Europe and America,’ she added. ‘This shows that the Palestinians in the West Bank are as imprisoned as those in Gaza.’

Red Pepper is an independent, non-profit magazine that puts left politics and culture at the heart of its stories. We think publications should embrace the values of a movement that is unafraid to take a stand, radical yet not dogmatic, and focus on amplifying the voices of the people and activists that make up our movement. If you think so too, please support Red Pepper in continuing our work by becoming a subscriber today.
Why not try our new pay as you feel subscription? You decide how much to pay.
Share this article  
  share on facebook     share on twitter  

The unrepentent Sarah Champion has no place in the modern Labour Party
Sarah Champion has defended her comments on race and sexual abuse. Her views have no place in the modern politics, writes Gavin Lewis

Labour Party laws are being used to quash dissent
Richard Kuper writes that Labour's authorities are more concerned with suppressing pro-Palestine activism than with actually tackling antisemitism

Catalan independence is not just ‘nationalism’ – it’s a rebellion against nationalism
Ignasi Bernat and David Whyte argue that Catalonia's independence movement is driven by solidarity – and resistance to far-right Spanish nationalists

Tabloids do not represent the working class
The tabloid press claims to be an authentic voice of the working class - but it's run by and for the elites, writes Matt Thompson

As London City Airport turns 30, let’s imagine a world without it
London City Airport has faced resistance for its entire lifetime, writes Ali Tamlit – and some day soon we will win

The first world war sowed the seeds of the Russian revolution
An excerpt from 'October', China Mieville's book revisiting the story of the Russian Revolution

Academies run ‘on the basis of fear’
Wakefield City Academies Trust (WCAT) was described in a damning report as an organisation run 'on the basis of fear'. Jon Trickett MP examines an education system in crisis.

‘There is no turning back to a time when there wasn’t migration to Britain’
David Renton reviews the Migration Museum's latest exhibition

#MeToo is necessary – but I’m sick of having to prove my humanity
Women are expected to reveal personal trauma to be taken seriously, writes Eleanor Penny

Meet the digital feminists
We're building new online tools to create a new feminist community and tackle sexism wherever we find it, writes Franziska Grobke

The Marikana women’s fight for justice, five years on
Marienna Pope-Weidemann meets Sikhala Sonke, a grassroots social justice group led by the women of Marikana

Forget ‘Columbus Day’ – this is the Day of Indigenous Resistance
By Leyli Horna, Marcela Terán and Sebastián Ordonez for Wretched of the Earth

Uber and the corporate capture of e-petitions
Steve Andrews looks at a profit-making petition platform's questionable relationship with the cab company

You might be a centrist if…
What does 'centrist' mean? Tom Walker identifies the key markers to help you spot centrism in the wild

Black Journalism Fund Open Editorial Meeting in Leeds
Friday 13th October, 5pm to 7pm, meeting inside the Laidlaw Library, Leeds University

This leadership contest can transform Scottish Labour
Martyn Cook argues that with a new left-wing leader the Scottish Labour Party can make a comeback

Review: No Is Not Enough
Samir Dathi reviews No Is Not Enough: Defeating the New Shock Politics, by Naomi Klein

Building Corbyn’s Labour from the ground up: How ‘the left’ won in Hackney South
Heather Mendick has gone from phone-banker at Corbyn for Leader to Hackney Momentum organiser to secretary of her local party. Here, she shares her top tips on transforming Labour from the bottom up

Five things to know about the independence movement in Catalonia
James O'Nions looks at the underlying dynamics of the Catalan independence movement

‘This building will be a library!’ From referendum to general strike in Catalonia
Ignasi Bernat and David Whyte report from the Catalan general strike, as the movements prepare to build a new republic

Chlorine chickens are just the start: Liam Fox’s Brexit trade free-for-all
A hard-right free marketer is now in charge of our trade policy. We urgently need to develop an alternative vision, writes Nick Dearden

There is no ‘cult of Corbyn’ – this is a movement preparing for power
The pundits still don’t understand that Labour’s new energy is about ‘we’ not ‘me’, writes Hilary Wainwright