The latest (‘Floptilla’) anti-Israel publicity stunt gets a reality check in Jordan

A guest post by AKUS

The 100 or so people who wasted their money flying to Amman, Jordan last week found a few surprises when they arrived there. They may have also learned a few lessons about the reality regarding Jordan’s view of the Palestinian issue and how foreign interference is viewed by an Arab country whose relationship with the Palestinians has been uneasy, to say the least.

Lesson 1: Jordan has little patience for these stunts. Unlike the participants in the flytilla, Jordanians and Israelis cannot pack up and fly home after appearing on TV. They have to live there as neighbors.

According to Lebanese cyberpaper Naaharnet, Jordan made sure that they could not cross into the West Bank at the Allenby Crossing, leading to an accusation – perhaps true – that Jordan did not want to make Israel responsible for turning the participants in the flytilla back.


Jordan on Sunday barred pro-Palestinian U.S. and European activists from trying to cross into the West Bank for delivering school supplies to students.

“Two buses carrying 100 activists were not allowed to leave the Jordanian side” of Allenby Bridge Crossing, also known as King Hussein Bridge between the West Bank and Jordan, Walid Atallah, a spokesman for the “Welcome to Palestine” campaign in Jordan, told Agence France Presse.

“The Jordanian authorities stamped their passports and charged them fees and everything was okay. When the buses left, the last checkpoint on the Jordanian side was closed. No reason was given.”

Atallah said the “activists left the buses and started to demonstrate near the checkpoint. One of them fainted and was taken to hospital.”

“This was deliberate. Jordan did not want Israel to be held responsible for denying the activists entry,” he added. [emphasis added]

Lesson 2: Jordan, like other Arab states, is not very accommodating to the Palestinians. Even so, Palestinians are in no hurry to exercise the “Right of Return” to Gaza.

Elder of Zion noted that one group, “EuroPalestine” discovered apartheid in Jordan.  They paid a visit to a refugee township at Jerash and found things rather different than they may have anticipated:

A hundred men, women and children, from the mission WELCOME TO PALESTINE went Saturday to the Palestinian refugee camp of JERASH, Jordan, near Amman.

They were warmly welcomed by officials and residents of this camp which includes more than 35,000 Palestinians from all of the Gaza Strip.

These people have a special place in the tragedy of the Palestinian people and in fact arrived in Jordan after the 1967 war, not during the Nakba of 1948, and have a status of “displaced” and not “refugees”.

Grouped in an area of ​​75 hectares, the 3000 Jerash families have no nationality and no longer receive any benefits since 2010 from UNRWA, the UN agency responsible for Palestinian refugees. [emphasis added]

These stateless people are refused citizenship by Jordan, but do not want to return to Gaza (so much for the “Right of Return” in practice!). In addition, they are treated, in many respects, as non-Whites were in apartheid South Africa:

The only camp school is obliged to accommodate 6400 pupils, part-time only, in overcrowded classrooms as we imagine. The camp has indeed no right to construct new buildings and expand on the land leased by UNRWA for a period of 99 years.

Even after graduation, students who have received scholarships to go to the Dalhousie University in Jordan can not engage in employment in the public [sector] and remain stateless for life.

As EoZ observed:

Yes, an Arab from Yemen or Egypt can become a citizen of Jordan, but one from Gaza cannot. Sounds like apartheid to me.

Lesson 3: Protests against the Israeli Embassy are not tolerated in Jordan

The Jordan Times reports that “Activists from the ‘Welcome to Palestine’ campaign were dispersed by police while demonstrating outside the Israeli embassy on Thursday after refusing to relocate.”

The activists were protesting against Israel’s decision to deny them entry to the West Bank last week.

The police asked the activists to move to a different location farther from the embassy, but they refused, and when police officers arrived to physically remove them, some sat or lay down on the ground.

Olivia Zemore, the campaign’s spokesperson, told The Jordan Times that the protesters had decided to relocate to the Kalouti Mosque, around 400 metres away, where Jordanian activists were holding a weekly pro-Palestine demonstration.

“We were not allowed to protest here and that is why we are marching to the Kalouti Mosque, where there are Jordanian protesters.”

The demonstrators who refused to move were placed in police vans and driven to the alternate site; none were arrested.

See Lesson 1 – Jordan has little patience for these stunts. This is not London where protesters can spend an afternoon hurling abuse at Israel outside the embassy there. Perhaps, also, the Jordanians felt that things might get out of hand if, say, the local branch of the Muslim Brotherhood joined in.

Lesson 4 is yet to be learned: Egypt, not just Israel, also blocks access to Gaza.

The activists are planning an attempt to enter Gaza through the Rafah border crossing with Egypt sometime this year.

Al Ahram reports :

Sinai residents have reported to Ahram Online that heavy machinery of the state-owned Arab Contractors company is being used to destroy tunnels linking Egypt and the besieged Gaza Strip. The destruction of the tunnels is happening under the supervision of Egyptian military forces.

Egyptian authorities on Monday announced the closure of the Rafah Crossing.

According to Khaled Abu Toameh, even the Palestinian Authority wants to limit access to Gaza:

Abbas urges Egypt to destroy underground tunnels

For first time, PA publicly calls for destruction of underground tunnels to Gaza, asking Egypt to them to tighten blockade.

Buoyed by growing tensions between Hamas and Cairo in wake of last week’s terrorist attack in Sinai, the Palestinian Authority on Saturday called on the Egyptians to tighten the blockade on Gaza by destroying all tunnels under their border with the Strip.

Oh dear. It sounds like a new floptilla will be a rerun of the 2010 flop:

George Galloway deported from Egypt

George Galloway was today deported from Egypt after plainclothes police officers refused him re-entry into the Gaza Strip and bundled him on to a plane for London.

The Respect MP Galloway, declared “persona non grata” by the Egyptian foreign ministry, arrived back in the UK at around 1pm.

Even after the disastrous Arab Spring, I would bet that foreigners trying to get to Gaza through Egypt will have no better luck with the new administration. People in the Middle East have simply had enough of being a backdrop for these egotistical publicity seekers.

But will all this be enough to dissipate the desire among well-fed Westerners to participate in more of these flops? Will it ever dawn on these Israel-bashing monomaniacs that the situation of Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank is immeasurably better than their situation under the rule of their Arab brothers or Hamas?

Unfortunately I doubt it, but whatever the enthusiasm outside the Middle East for these stunts, the countries in the Middle East have had enough.

‘Airflotilla 2′ & “normal, average Europeans”

Earlier in the week the organisers of the ‘Airflotilla 2′ (‘Welcome to Palestine’) campaign held a press conference in Bethlehem. Among the speakers the organisers chose to address journalists was the mayor of Bethlehem, Victor Batarseh who urged Israel to allow the flytilla activists in.

“These people are coming to talk about peace, they are not coming to wage war against Israel,” he said. “They are coming to visit the Palestinian people who are under occupation and to talk to them and to help them because these people are isolated.”

 “We are asking our neighbors the Israeli government to make it easy for these people to enter the Palestinian National Authority, so that we can have this message of peace starting from this holy city of Bethlehem.”

He called on Europe and the United States to support the protest. People who speak out about Israel’s policies are called “anti-Semitic,” he said, but urged the US and Europe not to fear this label.

Whilst he can certainly talk the talk, Mayor Batarseh’s ‘message of peace’ should be seen in light of the fact that he recently took part in the ‘Christ at the Checkpoint conference held in his town, during which he told the audience that the Palestinians were being crucified by Israeli security measures, Bethlehem was a giant prison and that Jesus Christ, embodied by the Palestinian people, was imprisoned in the city by the security barrier.

Batarseh is known to be allied to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) – a terrorist organization proscribed by Canada, the EU and the US. In January this year Batarseh attended a memorial service for PFLP founder George Habash held in Beit Sahour.  Terror attacks perpetrated by the PFLP include:

  • On July 22, 1968, the PFLP hijacked its first plane, an El Al flight from Rome to Tel Aviv.
  • In September 1970, the PFLP hijacked three passenger planes and took them to airfields in Jordan, where the PLO was then based; after the planes were emptied, the hijackers blew them up. In response, King Hussein of Jordan decided that Palestinian radicals had gone too far and drove the PLO out of his kingdom.
  • In 1972, PFLP and Japanese Red Army gunmen murdered two dozen passengers at Israel’s international airport in Lod.
  • In 1976, breaking a PLO agreement to end terrorism outside Israeli-held territory, PFLP members joined with West German radical leftists from the Baader-Meinhof Gang to hijack an Air France flight bound for Tel Aviv and landed the plane in Entebbe, Uganda. In a now-famous raid, Israeli commandos freed the hostages. [Despite the overall success of the raid, three hostages were killed in the firefight and one was killed by Ugandan Army officers in a nearby hospital.]

Also speaking at the ‘Welcome to Palestine’ press conference was project organizer Mazin Qumsiyeh who said of the campaign’s participants:

“These are not hooligans. The people who are coming are normal, average Europeans who want to learn and visit people under occupation,”

Hooliganism is defined as ‘rowdy, violent or destructive behaviour’ or alternatively; ‘willful, wanton and malicious destruction of the property of others’. Some might say that the attempts of Mazin Qumsiyeh and his Palestine Justice Network to eliminate the Israeli state amount to little less.

Certainly, Mazin Qumsiyeh and Mustafa Barghouti –  an endorser of the ‘Air Flotilla 2′ – do not qualify as being best placed to define hooliganism in light of their equally suspect definition of the recent March 30th ‘Global March to Jerusalem’ events  (which they also co-organised) as ‘non-violent resistance’ and Barghouti’s active participation in the Qalandiya riots.

Neither, of course, is Qumsiyeh’s definition of the ‘Air Flotilla 2′ participants as “normal, average Europeans” at all accurate. Average Europeans do not – unlike the members of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign or London BDS  (both of which are involved in ‘Welcome to Palestine’)  – align themselves with the oppressive human-rights abusing, terror financing and supporting  Iranian regime by promoting and participating in ‘Al Quds Day marches.

Normal Europeans do not march under the flags of terrorist organisations such as Hizbollah and Hamas who indiscriminately murder civilians. Average Europeans do not disrupt cultural events and call for boycotts of a democratic country as a means of bringing about its dismantling. And ordinary Europeans certainly do not try to deliberately get themselves deported from other countries by knowingly engineering provocations.

As for Qumsiyeh’s claim that the ‘Air Flotilla 2′ participants wanting to “learn” about the conflict – that of course is highly dubious. Seasoned activists such as these are precisely what they are because of the fact that they have no desire to have their well-entrenched opinions challenged by facts and knowledge.

But let’s say they did. A viewing of this video made by Mustafa Barghouti shows exactly what participants in the ‘Air Flotilla 2′ will be ‘learning’ on their trip – should they actually arrive.

‘Air Flotilla 2′ Participants – the trailer (Anti-Zionist ‘activists’ consumed by hate)

If, by any chance, you’ve been wondering what sort of people will be taking part in next Sunday’s Air Flotilla 2, then here’s an opportunity to meet three of the delegation from Greater Manchester. All three are connected to the Manchester Palestine Solidarity Campaign.

This is also an opportunity to record the number of typical anti-Israel campaigner buzz words such as ‘ghettoised’, ‘ethnic cleansing’, ‘apartheid wall’ or ‘total siege’, along with the number of downright lies such as ‘Israel steals Palestinian water and sells it back to them’ or ‘no access to health-care’  which can be squeezed into just under 12 minutes.

Norma Turner is an advocate of the right of return , a campaigner for Stop the JNF and a promoter of BDS, having apparently attended the 2009 ‘Gaza Freedom March’ meeting which produced the Cairo Declaration. She is on record as agreeing with Ken O’Keefe’s claim that Israel was behind the murder of Vittorio Arrigoni and was one of the Manchester PSC members who showed up to bat for Caryl Churchill’s anti-Semitic play ‘7 Jewish Children’ at the Octagon Theatre in Bolton in 2009.

Despite the claims by the ‘Air Flotilla 2′ organisers and participants that Palestinians cannot receive visitors, Turner appears to have travelled to Palestinian-controlled areas on at least three separate occasions, including a visit to Gaza as a member of a ‘Viva Palestina’ convoy.  

 The Manchester PSC organized a ‘Naqba Day’ demonstration outside the BBC building on Oxford Road last year.

“The group members said that that there was no particular reason why they held the rally outside the BBC, but they felt that the BBC did not present the Palestinian side of the debate as often as the Israeli side.

Criticisms of Nakba Day claim that it is marked by Palestinians to celebrate their alleged wishes for the dismantling of the Israeli state and the Jewish population.

Linda Clare, chair of the MPSC, claimed that this was not true at all.

She said: “What we want to see the end of is the Zionist state – you can’t be democratic and then say the country is for one group of people only.”

Norma Turner, 60, who is also a member, said: “We are not calling for the destruction of the Israeli people. People should live together and there should be peace and justice.”

The same BBC studios were also targeted by the Manchester PSC  – and Norma Turner – in 2010 following the Mavi Marmara incident.  

“Police were forced to secure the entrance to the BBC building on Oxford Road as anti-Israeli protesters tried to storm their way inside. Several arrests were made and windows were smashed. One protester attached a Palestinian flag to a BBC flagpole on the reception area’s roof during the demonstration. He was later led away by police. Oxford Road was closed and police dogs were brought in to control huge crowds. Protesters surged forward and attempted to smash through glass doors leading into the building. They were kept back by lines of police officers inside.

Palestinian support groups marched through the streets carrying placards and banners reading ‘Stop the massacre’ and ‘Free Gaza’. Norma Turner, from the Manchester Palestine Solidarity Committee, said: “This was an act of piracy. They went in to kill people and they know they can get away with it. “It’s time Israel was brought to book.”

Sandy Broadhurst from Stockport is a former member of the Labour party who quit due to being “enraged by the Iraq war”.

“It’s left quite a big hole in my life,” she says. “I go to [George Galloway’s] Respect Coalition meetings now, but I’m not a member. I’m not sure they even have members. And I belong to groups such as Palestinian Solidarity, the anti-fascist people, stuff like that. But it’s not really filling the gap. “

Naturally, Broadhurst is also a supporter of BDS in its variety of forms and locations.

Pia Feig put her name to the ‘who’s who’ list of anti-Zionist British Jews who wrote to the Guardian in 2008 protesting Israel’s 60th anniversary. She is, of course, a member of ‘Jews for Justice for Palestinians’.

Commiserations to anyone who happens to be scheduled to fly from Manchester to Tel Aviv on Jet2 flight LS907 at 10 a.m. next Sunday morning. 

Israeli Jews characterized as Nazis on the ‘Air Flotilla 2′ Facebook account

A guest post by Hadar Sela

As mentioned in the recent CiF Watch report on the upcoming ‘Air Flotilla 2′ – otherwise known as ‘Welcome to Palestine’ – the initiative is supported by a plethora of groups from the United Kingdom, all of which are defined by their supposed ‘solidarity’ with the Palestinian cause as a raison d’etre. One of those groups is the Swansea Palestine Community Linkfrom South Wales.  

Members of that group are no strangers to the ‘flytilla’ concept, with several of them having taken part in the abortive 2011 provocation. As reported by CiF Watch at the time:

Joyce Irene Giblin of Newport represented (unsuccessfully) the Socialist Labour Party in the 2011 elections to the Welsh Assembly.  She is a member of ‘Swansea Action for Palestine’ and appears to support just about every anti-Israel outfit going, including ‘Jews against the Occupation’, Viva Palestina, the ECESG and the ISM. Here she is with her fellow flag-loving Newport resident. 

Joyce Giblin (left) and Pippa Bartolotti (right).

Also from Wales come the last two members of the British delegation to the ‘flytilla’: 46 year-old Swansea council worker Fiona Williams from Mumbles who is also involved in Swansea Action for Palestine and 56 year-old book-keeper Dee Murphy from Swansea who is a founder of the Swansea-Palestine Community Link.

Dee Murphy (left) and Fiona Williams (right)

Ms. Murphy seems to make quite a hobby out of getting herself arrested; she is half of what is apparently known as ‘the Tesco two’ and spent eight days in custody following a January 2009 incident in a local supermarket.

“The Tesco 2 are Dee Murphy and Greg Wilkinson who kicked off a campaign to boycott Israeli goods by going into their local Tesco store, filling a trolley with dates produced on illegal Zionist settlements on the West Bank, taking them out without paying, tipping the dates on the ground and spraying them with red dye, then waiting for the police to arrest them.”

Here is Dee Murphy explaining her actions at the time, prior to being arrested: 

Less than a month before that incident, Dee Murphy had super-glued herself to the entrance barriers at BBC Wales in Cardiff. Her fellow ‘flytilla’ memberFiona Williams told the press at the time that the reason for the action was that the BBC’s coverage of Operation Cast Lead was “pro-Israeli”.

“Hamas is referred to as a militant organisation, rather than the democratically elected government, having been elected by a huge majority.”

“The settlements in the West Bank should be referred to as illegal, the Israeli Defence Force as the Israeli Army, and the separation barrier as the apartheid wall.”

Here is Dee Murphy once again.

“So yes, they are shooting rockets into Israel, but these are an occupied people! And we all have the right to defend ourselves.” 

There is, however, a less quaintly eccentric side to these women, as can be seen in the casual (and apparently unremarkable) use of Nazi analogies on the ‘Welcome to Palestine’ Facebook wall. 

Whilst the majority of people might find it distinctly worrying that those who inhabit this echo-chamber can apparently see no fault in invoking antisemitic Nazi analogies as “legitimate criticism” and yet in the next breath declare themselves to be the victims of “spurious smear campaigns”, it is also worth remembering that they apparently have no criticism of their revered co-activist and local minor celeb  who sees nothing wrong in posing with of an existing Nazi party or withwho clearly state their genocidal aspirations.  

Pippa Bartolotti in Syria – posing with the flag of the SSNP

Pippa Bartolotti in Gaza – posing with Hamas’ Mahmoud al Zahar

Finally, a clue as to why Ms. Giblin sprang to the defense of Bartolotti in the above thread can be found on her list of friends displayed on her Facebook page:

(Note to Ms. Giblin: You may want to change your Facebook security settings!)

What the ladies of the Swansea Palestine Action Link obviously do not appreciate is that there is neither need nor intention to “smear” them. That, they are doing very effectively by themselves. 

CiF Watch Special Report: Latest Assault on Israel’s legitimacy, ‘Air Flotilla 2′, April 15th, 2012

A guest post by Hadar Sela (this report may also be viewed on scribd by clicking here)

Hot on the heels of the ‘Global March to Jerusalem’ will come yet another event designed to continue the assault on Israel’s legitimacy – the April 15th ‘Air Flotilla 2′ (also known as ‘Welcome to Palestine’) or flytilla‘ as last year’s  (Hamas approved) similar event was dubbed.

Once again, the aim is to have large numbers of international “activists flying in to Ben Gurion airport on one day – in the words of the organisers – as part of the “challenge to Israel’s illegal siege of Palestine”.

“There is no way into Palestine other than through Israeli control points. Israel has turned Palestine into a giant prison, but prisoners have a right to receive visitors.

Welcome to Palestine 2012 will again challenge Israel’s policy of isolating the West Bank while the settler paramilitaries and army commit brutal crimes against a virtually defenceless Palestinian civilian population.”

The similarity of the methodology and rhetoric of this project to that of the Global March to Jerusalem is no coincidence; several of the organisers and endorsers are mutual to both campaigns.  In fact, Mazin Qumsiyeh recently put out calls for volunteers for both projects on his blog, claiming that over 1,500 Europeans have already purchased tickets for April 15th whilst the overall target number appears to be 2,500.

Endorsers of the Air Flotilla include occasional Guardian contributor and ‘Right to Enter activist Sam Bahour, Tony Benn (controversial president of the ‘Stop the War Coalition’ which was involved in the GMJ) , Noam Chomsky (a GMJ endorser), Nazareth-based former Guardian journalist  Jonathan Cook, ‘Free Gaza’ and ISM activist Hedy Epstein and PA Ambassador Manuel Hassassian (whose mission promoted the Global March to Jerusalem).

Also on board are Ronnie Kasrils (a GMJ endorser), Nurit Peled, John Pilger, Jean Ziegler, Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb ( a GMJ endorser), Susan Abulhawa (a GMJ endorser), Ali Abunimah (whose ‘electronic Intifada’ is promoting the Air Flotilla), Mustafa Barghouti (a GMJ organizer), Abdelfattah Abu Srour of the Al Rowwad Culltural Centre (which supported the 2011 flytilla and the GMJ) and Desmond Tutu (also a GMJ endorser).

Mustafa Barghouti’s ‘Palestinian National Initiative was also an endorser of the Global March to Jerusalem, as was The Siraj Centre (where Mazin Qumsiyeh is a member of the board) and the Palestine Justice Network which is currently involved in the organization of the Air Flotilla. The Palestine Justice Network solicits donations through the International Solidarity Campaign-linked ‘Palestinian Centre for Rapprochement between People’, of which Qumsiyeh is head.

In April 2011 the Palestine Justice Network launched its ‘One State Initiative’ and as can be seen from the endorsements, many of the names also appear on the list of those supporting or organising the ‘Welcome to Palestine’ campaign, as well as on the list of signatories of the Stuttgart Declaration.

In short, as was the case with the organisers of the Global March to Jerusalem, the Air Flotilla initiators are united by their rejection of the internationally-accepted route of negotiations aimed at leading to a two-state solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict. Their aim is an imposed ‘one-state solution’ which would result in the end of self-determination for the Jewish people.

A list of foreign organisations endorsing the Air Flotilla – predominantly from the United Kingdom – can be seen here. Among the individual endorsers is Maha Rahwanji of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign executive committee. The PSC was of course heavily involved in the organization of the Global March to Jerusalem. Something of Rahwanji‘s mindset can be understood from her Twitter timeline.

Unsurprisingly, the Iranian regime-linked ‘Islamic Human Rights Commission’ based in the UK is also promoting the ‘Welcome to Palestine’ project, as is Iran’s ‘Press TV’ – according to which “[t]his year, the Welcome to Palestine movement aims to overwhelm Israeli officials by its sheer number of members”.

Purveyor of anti-Semitic cartoons Carlos Latuff presented a gift to the campaign:

The ‘Welcome to Palestine’ campaign has no qualms about using the false – and highly charged – canard of ‘apartheid’ on its official website in order to curry support.

“Plans are underway to challenge Israeli apartheid during 2012 by having a large number of international activists land in Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion airport.”

The campaign’s supporting Twitter account – described as an ‘awareness campaign’ – goes even further, propagating lies and descending into anti-Semitic Nazi analogies.

The end-game of the ‘Welcome to Palestine’ Air Flotilla is, however, revealed in this Tweet:

One of the people operating the ‘Airflotilla2′ Twitter account and its online campaign in general is Gaza Strip-born Ayman Qwaider who is currently resident in Spain.

Before leaving Gaza to study abroad, Qwaider worked for the ‘European Campaign to End the Siege on Gaza’ – a Hamas/Muslim Brotherhood project which is headed by UK-based Hamas operative  Mohammed Sawalha. Sawalha was instrumental in the organization of both the 2010 and 2011 flotillas and was also one of the organisers of the Global March to Jerusalem.

Ayman Qwaider has written for the Palestine Telegraph which is operated by Sameh Habeebwho is also spokesman for the Muslim Brotherhood’s ‘European Campaign to End the Siege on Gaza’ and connected to the Hamas-linked Palestinian Return Centre based in London which is proscribed by Israel.  Last year Qwaider was active in the flotilla campaign on behalf of the ‘Spanish Boat to Gaza’, including giving a talk at a Spanish university.

Part of the online support campaign for the ‘Airflotilla2′ initiative includes an e-mail campaign aimed at members of Parliament.

“Palestinians resist.  The British Government, however, joins with Israel to isolate the Palestinians while they are being dispossessed.  The UK Government, for example, refused to support the recent successful Palestinian bid to join UNESCO in the teeth of bitter US and Israeli opposition. The UK Government has also signalled it will oppose the Palestinian bid for full membership of the UN.

When our governments endorse illegal Israeli occupation, concerned citizens need to take action.”

The main difference between the Airflotilla2 and the Global March to Jerusalem is that the former is designed to appeal primarily – though not exclusively - to European audiences, as reflected in its campaigning and publicity which includes websites and advertising in various European  languages.

UK :
BELGIUM : / et pour Bruxelles (Brussels) :
PALESTINE : (school project) and

In the Netherlands, Electronic Intifada’s Adri Nieuwhof appears to be utilising her connections within the ‘human rights’/international aid community in order to publicize the project.

Several of the ‘Airflotilla2′ organisers took part in last year’s failed flytilla including Myriam de Ly and David Dupire from Belgium and Mick Napier of the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign.

Events were held in Paris , Brussels and other European cities earlier this year to promote the campaign.

The final speaker in the video – Jaques Neno of the EJE (Les Enfants, le Jeu et l’Education) is also one of the project’s organisers, along with George N Rishmawi – co-founder of International Solidarity Movement (ISM), head of the International Middle East Media Center (IMEMC), coordinator of the Siraj Centre and a former board member of the Palestinian Centre for Rapprochement between Peoples. As stated above, Airflotilla2 and GMJ organizer Mazin Qumsiyeh is connected to both the latter organisations.

Neno tells potential participants that they should expect three possible scenarios. The first is that they will get arrested.  In that case, according, to him “you have won because when Israel puts you in prison it shows how it becomes more and more fascist”.

The second scenario involves the activists being prevented from boarding their flights at the point of departure, as happened in many cases in 2011, but which Neno appears to consider unlikely this year. The third scenario is that they will reach their destination.

Obviously, provocation and bad public relations for Israel are yet again the real name of the game and several factors suggest that this latest publicity stunt aimed at undermining Israel’s legitimacy should not be taken lightly.

One of these factors is the date which, although originally planned to coincide with the anniversary of the death of ISM activist Vittorio Arrigoni, is also the day after the end of the Pessach holiday when Ben Gurion airport will be particularly busy with a large volume of travelers. For example, the UK airline Jet2 has added an additional flight to its usual schedule on that day which is probably aimed at returning Pessach visitors to Manchester, but is likely to be used by ‘Airflotilla2′ activists from Scotland and the north of England.

Another factor is the unverified claim by ‘Welcome to Palestine’ organisers (Palestine Justice Network) that following the 2011 flytilla during which the majority of activists were not permitted to board their flights, “[a]s a result of legal challenges, many European airlines not only fully refunded the tickets, but also agreed not to repeat the incident.”  In the event that airlines will refuse to transport the activists, demonstrations are already being planned.

The International Solidarity Movement in France is already very indignant regarding a statement put out recently by the French Foreign Ministry advising its citizens not to take part in the ‘Airflotilla2′.

The British government has similarly advised against participation in the project, but such recommendations are unlikely to make much of an impression on these activists, as can be seen by the reaction of the French organisers.

“We have no illusions about our leaders and the fact they eat in the hand of the Israeli occupation. We know how they behaved in July, and more generally how they refuse to apply international law and the principle of reciprocity, then they leave to enter France all Israelis who wish, including criminals war. They do not even defend French diplomats when they are humiliated, beaten or injured by the police or the IDF.”

“The method of intimidation will not work. Participants in the mission “Welcome to Palestine” have the right, justice and morality on their side. And they are aware of the seriousness of the situation for the Palestinians, every day more persecuted and dispossessed. They are not ashamed to go visit them. And to do head high, without lying, without going into the game of the occupant, which would wipe out Palestine and the Palestinians.

Gentlemen of the Quai d’Orsay, gentlemen of the government, history will record that you do not have much dignity.”

On the publicity front, the involvement of Ali Abunimah in this campaign means that we are likely to see a far more intense level of activity, particularly on social networks, than was the case with the Global March to Jerusalem which Abunimah and others shunned.

UPDATE, April 11th:

The full ‘Welcome to Palestine’ programme of events can be seen here. The stated aims of the project – building a school and a museum and refurbishing a kindergarten – appear to be confined to one day of activity, with the rest of the week’s visit dedicated to trips to various destinations and a seminar on the subject of “How to End the Occupation?”.

The organisation hoping to build a museum on the history of Palestinian refugees is the Al Rowwad Centre which was also involved in the organisation of the 2011 flytilla, is party to the BDS movement and was an endorser of the Global March to Jerusalem. Pictured below is one of its vehicles, bearing a logo which clearly rejects a negotiated two-state solution.