Israel Creates 'No-fly Zone' for Palestinian Activists

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JERUSALEM, Israel -- Israel became a no-fly zone for pro-Palestinian activists when Israeli authorities stopped hundreds of them from flying into Israel over the weekend.

The activists called it a "flytilla," international protestors attempting to fly into Israel as part of a campaign to promote travel to what they call "Palestine."

"The message is clear that people have the right to come to Palestine, people have the right to say they are coming to Palestine," said "fly-in" organizer Abdelfattah Abusrour.

Israel was concerned about a large influx of protestors based on deadly confrontations with such groups in the past.

Most were prevented from boarding flights abroad, but dozens were stopped at Ben Gurion International Airport. A few got through, including Tanya, who did not give her last name, from Lyon, France.

"It is really, really important for me to be here because I think that we all have the right just to be able to come to Palestine, to meet Palestinian people," Tanya told a news conference in Bethlehem.

"Palestine" refers to the so-called West Bank (and Gaza). It is biblical Judea and Samaria, where the Palestinians want to establish an independent Palestinian state. Many Palestinians want their state to replace the State of Israel.

Jewish activist Baruch Marzel said Israel has to fight anti-Semitism.

"Those of them who come to support Hamas and the PLO (Palestine Liberation Organization) that want to destroy Israel are enemies and enemies don't have the right to come here," Marzel said.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wondered why the protesters came to Israel, the only democracy in the Middle East.

"What are they doing here anyway? Why did they come to Israel, the Middle East's only democracy?" he asked.

"They want to check the issue of human rights, let them go to Syria, maybe they can help stop the murder of thousands of innocent victims, or to Iran to stop the stoning of women, or to Gaza to stop the use of children as human shields for terrorists launching rockets at our citizens," he continued. 

"After they do their educational tour, let them come here. We'll talk to them about what they learned in the Middle East -- the way it is," he said.

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Julie Stahl

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