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  

Michael Cashman: Commander of the Blairite Empire
Lord Cashman, a candidate in Labour’s internal elections, claims to stand for Labour’s grassroots members. He is a phony, writes Cathy Cole

Contribute to Conter – the new cross-party platform linking Scottish socialists
Jonathan Rimmer, editor of Conter, says it’s time for a new non-sectarian space for Scottish anti-capitalists and invites you to take part

Editorial: Empire will eat itself
Ashish Ghadiali introduces the June/July issue of Red Pepper

Eddie Chambers: Black artists and the DIY aesthetic
Eddie Chambers, artist and art historian, speaks to Ashish Ghadiali about the cultural strategies that he, as founder of the Black Art Group, helped to define in the 1980s

Despite Erdogan, Turkey is still alive
With this year's referendum consolidating President Erdogan’s autocracy in Turkey, Nazim A argues that the way forward for democrats lies in a more radical approach

Red Pepper Race Section: open editorial meeting – 11 August in Leeds
The next open editorial meeting of the Red Pepper Race Section will take place between 3.30-5.30pm, Friday 11th August in Leeds.

Mogg-mentum? Thatcherite die-hard Jacob Rees-Mogg is no man of the people
Adam Peggs says Rees-Mogg is no joke – he is a living embodiment of Britain's repulsive ruling elite

Power to the renters: Turning the tide on our broken housing system
Heather Kennedy, from the Renters Power Project, argues it’s time to reject Thatcher’s dream of a 'property-owning democracy' and build renters' power instead

Your vote can help Corbyn supporters win these vital Labour Party positions
Left candidate Seema Chandwani speaks to Red Pepper ahead of ballot papers going out to all members for a crucial Labour committee

Join the Rolling Resistance to the frackers
Al Wilson invites you to take part in a month of anti-fracking action in Lancashire with Reclaim the Power

The Grenfell public inquiry must listen to the residents who have been ignored for so long
Councils handed housing over to obscure, unaccountable organisations, writes Anna Minton – now we must hear the voices they silenced

India: Modi’s ‘development model’ is built on violence and theft from the poorest
Development in India is at the expense of minorities and the poor, writes Gargi Battacharya

North Korea is just the start of potentially deadly tensions between the US and China
US-China relations have taken on a disturbing new dimension under Donald Trump, writes Dorothy Guerrero

The feminist army leading the fight against ISIS
Dilar Dirik salutes militant women-organised democracy in action in Rojava

France: The colonial republic
The roots of France’s ascendant racism lie as deep as the origins of the French republic itself, argues Yasser Louati

This is why it’s an important time to support Caroline Lucas
A vital voice of dissent in Parliament: Caroline Lucas explains why she is asking for your help

PLP committee elections: it seems like most Labour backbenchers still haven’t learned their lesson
Corbyn is riding high in the polls - so he can face down the secret malcontents among Labour MPs, writes Michael Calderbank

Going from a top BBC job to Tory spin chief should be banned – it’s that simple
This revolving door between the 'impartial' broadcaster and the Conservatives stinks, writes Louis Mendee – we need a different media

I read Gavin Barwell’s ‘marginal seat’ book and it was incredibly awkward
Gavin Barwell was mocked for writing a book called How to Win a Marginal Seat, then losing his. But what does the book itself reveal about Theresa May’s new top adviser? Matt Thompson reads it so you don’t have to

We can defeat this weak Tory government on the pay cap
With the government in chaos, this is our chance to lift the pay cap for everyone, writes Mark Serwotka, general secretary of public service workers’ union PCS

Corbyn supporters surge in Labour’s internal elections
A big rise in left nominations from constituency Labour parties suggests Corbynites are getting better organised, reports Michael Calderbank

Undercover policing – the need for a public inquiry for Scotland
Tilly Gifford, who exposed police efforts to recruit her as a paid informer, calls for the inquiry into undercover policing to extend to Scotland

Becoming a better ally: how to understand intersectionality
Intersectionality can provide the basis of our solidarity in this new age of empire, writes Peninah Wangari-Jones

The myth of the ‘white working class’ stops us seeing the working class as it really is
The right imagines a socially conservative working class while the left pines for the days of mass workplaces. Neither represent today's reality, argues Gargi Bhattacharyya

The government played the public for fools, and lost
The High Court has ruled that the government cannot veto local council investment decisions. This is a victory for local democracy and the BDS movement, and shows what can happen when we stand together, writes War on Want’s Ross Hemingway.

An ‘obscure’ party? I’m amazed at how little people in Britain know about the DUP
After the Tories' deal with the Democratic Unionists, Denis Burke asks why people in Britain weren't a bit more curious about Northern Ireland before now

The Tories’ deal with the DUP is outright bribery – but this government won’t last
Theresa May’s £1.5 billion bung to the DUP is the last nail in the coffin of the austerity myth, writes Louis Mendee

Brexit, Corbyn and beyond
Clarity of analysis can help the left avoid practical traps, argues Paul O'Connell

Paul Mason vs Progress: ‘Decide whether you want to be part of this party’ – full report
Broadcaster and Corbyn supporter Paul Mason tells the Blairites' annual conference some home truths

Contagion: how the crisis spread
Following on from his essay, How Empire Struck Back, Walden Bello speaks to TNI's Nick Buxton about how the financial crisis spread from the USA to Europe


9