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A civil rights group call on Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein on Thursday to prosecute pro-Palestinian activists who come to Israel as part of the mass “fly-in” or “flytilla” event scheduled for Sunday.
In their letter to Weinstein, the Israel Law Center (Shurat Hadin) said those “flytilla” activists who come to Israel would be acting in violation of Israeli law, including the Penal Code, the Police Ordinance and Emergency Regulations.
Police estimate that between 500 and 1,000 activists will try to land in Israel on 20 flights from Western Europe and Turkey throughout Sunday, though organizers estimate that closer to 2,000 people will attempt to arrive. While police view the flytilla activists as hostile elements seeking to create provocations, organizers of the event, also called “Welcome to Palestine,” have in turn insisted that Israel is overreacting and that participants are peaceful supporters of the Palestinians, who want to learn about the issue and participate in nonviolent events.
According to Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch, should the activists manage to arrive in Israel, they will be taken off the planes and denied entry. They will then be be placed in temporary holding cells before being deported to their points of origin.
However, in their letter to Weinstein, the Law Center argued this plan of deporting activists without prosecuting them would not be in the best interest of the Israeli public.
“It is in the public’s interests to deter participants in the upcoming ‘flytilla’ from taking part in future ‘flytillas’,” the Law Center told the attorney-general.
The Law Center said that it believed a public announcement by the attorney-general that he intended to prosecute all ‘flytilla’ activists (subject to exceptions based on discretion) may cause at least some activists to reconsider participating in similar actions in the future.
According to the Law Center, the activists could be in violation of Article 194 of the Penal Code, which deals with causing a disturbance in a public place and stipulates a maximum of three months in prison, as well as Article 216, which deals with misconduct in a public place and stipulates a maximum one month prison term.
The Law Center says the activists could also be charged under the Penal Code with Prohibited Assembly and Riot; with unlawful assembly under the Police Ordinance; with causing a breach of the peace at Ben-Gurion Airport; trespassing in the airport while violating public order; and deceiving border police and interior ministry officials – all under the Emergency Regulations.
“No civilized country would permit tens or hundreds of foreign nationals to enter its borders with the freely-stated purpose of violating state order, laws and legal provisions, or in order to promote an ideological position that challenges that state’s sovereignty,” Law Center Director Nitsana Darshan-Leitner said on Thursday. “It is inconceivable that Israel is the only state that allows this,” she said, adding that the law center believes Israel’s decision to deport activists from the 2010 Gaza Mavi Marmara flotilla ship without prosecuting them had resulted in “significant damage to Israel’s policies and its image and in serious injuries to IDF soldiers.”
The Law Center asked Weinstein to provide urgent notification ahead of Sunday regarding whether he intends to prosecute flytilla activists.
Yaakov Lappin contributed to this report.