Get Red Pepper's email newsletter. Enter your email address to receive our latest articles, updates and news.
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.’
The Spanish state is seizing ballot papers and raiding meetings, write Ignasi Bernat and David Whyte – but it is being met with united resistance
The crunch executive meeting ahead of Labour conference agreed some welcome changes, writes Michael Calderbank, but there is still much further to go
Dipesh Pandya speaks to documentary film-maker Sanjay Kak, who for 30 years has been working outside the mainstream to tell a story rooted in the struggles of those excluded by India’s militarism and its narrative of neoliberal growth
Jeremy Gilbert on how radical Labour politics can be inspired by the utopianism of the counterculture
Disasters have unequal impacts – it's the poor and marginalised who suffer most. David Harvey writes on Hurricane Harvey
Survivors of the fire are still relying on thousands of community volunteers, writes Dan Renwick - but the failed council is plotting a comeback
What if it's not us who are sick, asks Rod Tweedy, but a system at odds with who we are as social beings?
The people could reach a democratic and non-violent solution if they were freed from US meddling, argues Boaventura de Sousa Santos
A decade after the start of the crash, economic power is in our hands – we must take it, writes Ann Pettifor
Flooding the cradle of civilisation: A 12,000 year old town in Kurdistan battles for survival
It’s one of the oldest continually inhabited places on earth, but a new dam has put Hasankeyf under threat, write Eliza Egret and Tom Anderson
New model activism: Putting Labour in office and the people in power
Hilary Wainwright examines how the ‘new politics’ needs to be about both winning electoral power and building transformative power
What is ‘free movement plus’?
A new report proposes an approach that can push back against the tide of anti-immigrant sentiment. Luke Cooper explains
The World Transformed: Red Pepper’s pick of the festival
Red Pepper is proud to be part of organising The World Transformed, in Brighton from 23-26 September. Here are our highlights from the programme
Working class theatre: Save Our Steel takes the stage
A new play inspired by Port Talbot’s ‘Save Our Steel’ campaign asks questions about the working class leaders of today. Adam Johannes talks to co-director Rhiannon White about the project, the people and the politics behind it
The dawn of commons politics
As supporters of the new 'commons politics' win office in a variety of European cities, Stacco Troncoso and Ann Marie Utratel chart where this movement came from – and where it may be going
A very social economist
Hilary Wainwright says the ideas of Robin Murray, who died in June, offer a practical alternative to neoliberalism
Art the Arms Fair: making art not war
Amy Corcoran on organising artistic resistance to the weapons dealers’ London showcase
Beware the automated landlord
Tenants of the automated landlord are effectively paying two rents: one in money, the other in information for data harvesting, writes Desiree Fields
Black Journalism Fund – Open Editorial Meeting
3-5pm Saturday 23rd September at The World Transformed in Brighton
Immigration detention: How the government is breaking its own rules
Detention is being used to punish ex-prisoners all over again, writes Annahita Moradi
A better way to regenerate a community
Gilbert Jassey describes a pioneering project that is bringing migrants and local people together to repopulate a village in rural Spain
Fast food workers stand up for themselves and #McStrike – we’re loving it!
McDonald's workers are striking for the first time ever in Britain, reports Michael Calderbank
Two years of broken promises: how the UK has failed refugees
Stefan Schmid investigates the ways Syrian refugees have been treated since the media spotlight faded
West Papua’s silent genocide
The brutal occupation of West Papua is under-reported - but UK and US corporations are profiting from the violence, write Eliza Egret and Tom Anderson
Activate, the new ‘Tory Momentum’, is 100% astroturf
The Conservatives’ effort at a grassroots youth movement is embarrassingly inept, writes Samantha Stevens
Peer-to-peer production and the partner state
Michel Bauwens and Vasilis Kostakis argue that we need to move to a commons-centric society – with a state fit for the digital age
Imagining a future free of oppression
Writer, artist and organiser Ama Josephine Budge says holding on to our imagination of tomorrow helps create a different understanding today
The ‘alt-right’ is an unstable coalition – with one thing holding it together
Mike Isaacson argues that efforts to define the alt-right are in danger of missing its central component: eugenics
Fighting for Peace: the battles that inspired generations of anti-war campaigners
Now the threat of nuclear war looms nearer again, we share the experience of eighty-year-old activist Ernest Rodker, whose work is displayed at The Imperial War Museum. With Jane Shallice and Jenny Nelson he discussed a recent history of the anti-war movement.
Put public purpose at the heart of government
Victoria Chick stresses the need to restore the public good to economic decision-making
Don’t let the world’s biggest arms fair turn 20
Eliza Egret talks to activists involved in almost two decades of protest against London’s DSEI arms show
The new municipalism is part of a proud radical history
Molly Conisbee reflects on the history of citizens taking collective control of local services
With the rise of Corbyn, is there still a place for the Green Party?
Former Green principal speaker Derek Wall says the party may struggle in the battle for votes, but can still be important in the battle of ideas
Fearless Cities: the new urban movements
A wave of new municipalist movements has been experimenting with how to take – and transform – power in cities large and small. Bertie Russell and Oscar Reyes report on the growing success of radical urban politics around the world
A musical fightback against school arts cuts
Elliot Clay on why his new musical turns the spotlight on the damage austerity has done to arts education, through the story of one school band's battle
Neoliberalism: the break-up tour
Sarah Woods and Andrew Simms ask why, given the trail of destruction it has left, we are still dancing to the neoliberal tune
Cat Smith MP: ‘Jeremy Corbyn has authenticity. You can’t fake that’
Cat Smith, shadow minister for voter engagement and youth affairs and one of the original parliamentary backers of Corbyn’s leadership, speaks to Ashish Ghadiali
To stop the BBC interviewing climate deniers, we need to make climate change less boring
To stop cranks like Lord Lawson getting airtime, we need to provoke more interesting debates around climate change than whether it's real or not, writes Leo Barasi
Tory Glastonbury? Money can’t buy you cultural relevance
Adam Peggs on why the left has more fun