Photo: Anas-Mohammed/Shutterstock

Is the "Flytilla" Protest in Israel Activism, or Hypocrisy?

Israel Activism
by Emily Hanssen Arent Apr 15, 2012
The Israeli government’s response to “Welcome to Palestine” protests on Sunday calls into question the value of activism and the true intentions of flytilla activists.

THOUSANDS OF pro-Palestinian activists were set to fly to Israel Sunday to take part in the “Welcome to Palestine” protests against the occupation of Palestine. Over the past three weeks, the Israeli Foreign Ministry and Immigration Authority have attempted to thwart the arrival of as many known activists as possible, by serving airlines with “blacklists” of activists who should be denied the right to even board their flights.

Israeli newspaper Haaretz has reported that over 60% of the 1500 activists were denied the right to fly to Israel this Sunday. In a similar protest last July, 120 of 300 activists were detained and deported.

The news media has sensationalized the protest by renaming it the “flytilla,” a reference to the 2010 Gaza flotilla raid in which international activists en route to Gaza from Turkey were diverted in international waters by the Israeli navy. The ship’s refusal to change course resulted in a navy boarding and physical struggle which led to the death of nine Turkish activists.

“Welcome to Palestine” activists who were promptly denied visas and deported today were served with a sarcastic letter from the Israeli government, thanking them for their humanitarian concern for Israel and the Palestinians when there were “many other worthy choices.”

While the letter demonstrates a blatant disregard for the situation at hand, claiming Israel to be a democracy while simultaneously denying the right of foreign activists to peacefully protest the treatment of Palestinians in Israel and the Territories, it also sheds light on an interesting paradox of hypocrisy within the activist community.

People are suffering at the hands of injustice across the Middle East, and it’s worth noting that these diehard activists choose to organize enormous protests in a country where political violence is quite low in comparison to besieged countries like Syria, and activism is denied by swiftly organized flights home rather than through brutal crackdown as it often is in Iran.

It’s likely that the majority of deported activists will tear this letter to pieces in defiance of a country that claims to be democratic despite a myriad of human rights abuses. But they would be well served to take a small lesson from the letter as well.

Yes, Israel’s human rights record is dubious at best. But to make a symbolic long-distance flight, scream political chants for 30 seconds at the arrivals hall of Ben Gurion, and be quickly ushered onto a plane back home….

Can something so indulgent be called activism?

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