10 July 2011

Free the International Activists Arrested at Ben Gurion Airport

Update - Sunday 9th July 14.22

I have just called the Foreign & Commonwealth Office 0207 270 1500 and been told that consular assistance is being provided but I was also told by an unnamed civil servant that they had broke international law! Being referred to the Global Response Service, one Gail Johnson stated that they couldn't give me information because it was confidential and the persons I inquired about - Les Levidow, Anne Gray and Mick Napier - hadn't given their consent!

But as far as a political response it was made clear that there won't be any.

Tony Greenstein

UPDATE: 12 British nationals amongst internationals arrested & detained in Israel

UPDATE: British nationals arrested & detained in Israel for simply telling the truth at Israeli passport control - they wish to visit Bethlehem, Palestine.

Audrey Gray, 77 years old, from West Chitington – retired nurse, social worker, former Ecumenical Accompanier and current Methodist local preacher

Pippa Bartolotti, 57 years old, Deputy Leader of the Wales Green Party – Pippa was arrested on Friday 8 July after being allowed through passport control and then speaking to press about friends being detained by Israeli authorities

Mick Napier, 64, university teacher and chair of Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign, lives in Edinburgh

Ian Stewart-Hargreaves, lives on Isle of Lewis

Frank Thomas, 66, lives in Edinburgh, retired statistician

Les Levidow, 61, member of Jews Against Zionism and the British Committee for Universities of Palestine (BRICUP)

Anne Gray, 66, retired academic from London, Green Party activist

Dee Murphy, 56, (Irish) lives in Swansea, founder member of Swansea Palestine Community Link

John Lynes, 83, retired university lecturer, Quaker and a member of Jews for Justice for Palestinians, Architects and Planners for Justice in Palestine, Christian CND, World Development Movement and University and College Union

Val Kitchen, 68, from Tonbridge

Joy Cherkaoui, community worker from Dumfries and Galloway

Fiona Williams

Joyce Giblin, from Wales

More information on British participants here.

2011 July 9th:

See also BBC Report Twelve pro-Palestinian Britons 'detained' in Israel [note how BBC bias puts 'detained' in inverted commas. Presumably they just disappeared into thin air!

Sat 9th July 2011; NO EMBARGO
Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign: Media Release


Archbishop Desmond Tutu has come out in support of an arms embargo against Israel after authorities there arrested scores of UK and other nationals in Ben Gurion Airport yesterday.

The Nobel Peace Laureate said “I endorse this call for an arms embargo because we desire peace and justice for Palestinians and Israelis through non-violent ways.”

Israel says 69 internationals had been arrested at Israel’s Ben Gurion Airport, but the specific charge against them is still unclear. Around 700 internationals had intended to visit the West Bank town of Bethlehem on the invitation of families there. The Jerusalem Post reported that openly acknowledging an intention to visit the West Bank was enough to “ensure… deportation”.

According to the New York Times, Israeli commentators have “criticized the country’s leaders for overreacting and for broadcasting an image of insecurity and panic.”

Amongst those arrested is the UK co-ordinator of the “Welcome to Palestine” initiative, Mick Napier. Speaking by phone before his arrest yesterday, he reported that all UK participants had been arrested and it was understood they would be imprisoned at a detention centre in Ramla near Tel-Aviv.

“By their actions, Israel has shown the world that its siege is not restricted to Gaza, but extends to the West Bank as well. We have been arrested in Tel-Aviv simply because we refused to conceal the fact that we intended to visit Palestinian friends in Bethlehem. In no other state would that be a crime.”
Napier said the group were pleased to hear that Tutu and others had called for an arms embargo against Israel: “The pressure against Israel is mounting, and will continue to mount until Israel complies with international law and human rights legislation.”

The Jerusalem Post reports that pro-Palestinian Israeli activists who had held up signs inside the terminal saying ‘Welcome to Palestine’ were “taken outside by police where they were arrested and attacked by bystanders.” Police also arrested a Jerusalem Post reporter, Larry Derfner, after he questioned the arrests. He was quickly released after showing his press card.

Organisers of the Palestine visit chose the date of the 'fly-in' to coincide with the 7th anniversary of the International Court of Justice ruling on 9th July 2004 that Israel's West Bank wall, which today almost completely encircles the city of Bethlehem, is illegal.


Notes for editors:

See previous media releases for background here:

1. “Welcome to Palestine” is a French initiative that now has participation from across Europe and the USA.

The English-language section of the French website can be accessed here:

According to the group:

Israel’s standard practice of deporting anyone that they believe supports Palestine means than human rights activists invariably have to lie in order to pass passport control at Tel-Aviv.

However, having nothing to hide, and coming with totally peaceful intentions, we have decided that we are no longer willing to lie in order to do something that no other state would consider illegal.

Government agencies have been informed, and the Israeli authorities have been forwarded all information on our intentions.

Contrary to claims that we aim “to spread chaos at Tel Aviv airport”, our only aim is visit Palestinian families, share their daily life for a week, visit the towns, villages and refugee camps, discover the difficulties encountered by their inhabitants, and experience their culture and expectations.

2. The date of the 'fly-in' was chosen to coincide with the 7th anniversary of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruling in 2004 that Israel's West Bank wall, which today almost completely encircles the city of Bethlehem, is illegal.
The ICJ ruling can be found here:

3. For Tutu’s support of an arms embargo on Israel, see Global BDS Movement:

Please note that an earlier media release misattributed a quote by Walden Bello to Archbishop Desmond Tutu. For clarification:

Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Nobel Peace Laureate, said, “I endorse this call for an arms embargo because we desire peace and justice for Palestinians and Israelis through non-violent ways.”

Walden Bello, Right Livelihood Award recipient (also known as the Alternative Nobel Prize) and member of the Philippines parliament, said, “A comprehensive military embargo is a just response to Israel’s continuing intransigence to the world’s demand that it cease its extremely oppressive policies towards the Palestinian people. It is a campaign that is long overdue.”

4a. The UK co-ordinator of the initiative is Mick Napier, who, along with the majority of international participants, is due to arrive in Ben Gurion Airport on Friday July 8th.

Mick Napier is the chair of the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign, and can be contacted on:
00 44 (0)7931200361

4b. Sofiah Macleod is the UK-based contact for press enquiries.

Sofiah Macleod: + 44 (0)7958002591 or + 44 (0)131 620 0052 or + 44 (0) 7401631658

Email: july8@scottishpsc.org.uk
This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

5. Updates will be available on:

and Twitter @scottishpsc

6. Jerusalem Post quote on honesty ensuring deportation:

Jerusalem Post, 4th April 2011:

“700 pro-Palestinian activists plan to land in Ben-Gurion”

7. Quote from New York Times reference criticism of Israeli leaders’ overreaction:

“Israel Blocks Flights to Protest Gathering”

New York Times, 8th July 2011

8. Details of Jerusalem Post reporter, Larry Derfner’s arrest:

“Mobocracy at Ben-Gurion Airport” by Larry Derfner, 8th July 2011

9. Jerusalem Post report of arrest of Israeli Activists:

Jerusalem Post, Friday 8th July 2011

“Aharonovitch: 100 activists expected to land in Israel”

10. Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netenyahu “has ordered Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch to exert all efforts to prevent an infiltration into Israel's borders.”

Haaretz, Wednesday 6th July 2011:

“Israel deports five ahead of anticipated influx of pro-Palestinian activists”

11. Statement from Netenyahu’s office:

"This planned event is a continuation of the attempts to undermine Israel's right to exist and to attempt to breach its borders and sovereignty by sea, land and by air," according to the MAAN news agency.

Maan News Agency, Tuesday 5th July 2011:

“Israel prepares for pro-Palestinian airport protest”

12. Haaretz, Thursday 7th July 2011:

“Israel instructs foreign airlines to prevent departure of 300 pro-Palestinian activists”

13. Statements from some of the UK citizens who had planned to visit Bethlehem (photos available on online version):
Les Levidow has been opposing the Israeli Occupation through various campaign groups since the 1980s. These include: the British Committee for the Universities of Palestine (BRICUP), Jews for Boycotting Israel Goods (J-BIG) and Jews Against Zionism (JAZ). During the first intifada he was a member of the joint Jewish-Palestinian editorial group of the magazine Return, which opposed the Israeli Law of Return and supported the Palestinian right of return. He is author of relevant articles such as ‘Zionist Anti-Semitism’ (1991) and ‘The Zionist Origins of the War on Terror’ (2006). He is joining the Palestine Justice Network delegation in order to learn from civil society networks about ways to oppose the Occupation and build a free Palestine.

John Lynes, retired university lecturer in architecture.

“Between 2002 and 2009 I worked with the Christian Peacemaker Team (www.cpt.org) in the West Bank and in Northern Iraq, but had to retire due to failing health (I'm 83). I am a Quaker and a member of Jews for Justice for Palestinians, Architects and Planners for Justice in Palestine, Christian CND, World Development Movement, and a Life Member of the University and College Union.”
John Said, “I am taking part because I want us all - including Palestinians and Israelis - to live free from fear, from violence and from oppression. I know I may suffer imprisonment, and am ready to accept the consequences of my decisions in the hope that children in the Middle East may be enabled to grow up in greater safety.”

Anne Gray, Retired academic (sociologist/economist) from London. Active in Green Party and was a Green Party Parliamentary candidate in 2010. She said she wanted “to find out Palestinians’ ideas and proposals about a path towards a just peace and how British people can help them achieve that.

Audrey Gray is a 77 year-old from West Chiltington, a retired nurse, social worker, former Ecumenical Accompanier and current Methodist Local Preacher. She went “to stand alongside Palestinians and Israelis whose lives are severely restricted by the 43 year Israeli Occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem.”

Audrey said “I was determined to go again, I want to make a difference in some small way. In the past 20years I have made 7 pilgrimages to the region and lived on the West Bank for 4 ½ months in 2008 and seen for myself the difficulties, conditions and constraints under which people live.” Prime Minister Netanhayu declares Israel as a democracy, I am being undemocratically held against my will.'

The situation has become more desperate, as further restrictions of movement have been imposed. Along with others I have been invited to stay in Bethlehem at Aida refugee camp. This challenged Israel’s belief that we do not have the right to visit friends, just because they live on the West Bank, my British passport says ““The Secretary of State…requests and requires all those whom it may concern to allow the bearer to pass freely without let or hindrance and to afford the bearer such assistance and protection as may be necessary.” Being held against our will is unacceptable and I am calling on the British Consulate to protect and help us gain access, the British press to make our plight known and my MP Nick Herbert to bring the matter to Parliament, as a matter of urgency.

Joy Cherkaoui has a community work background and now works for Dumfries and Galloway Council in Integrated Children’s Services. She has long been involved in social justice issues and has a strong interest in community engagement and participatory methodologies. Growing up in the 1970s she was active in the Anti-Apartheid Movement, women’s rights and CND. Later she became involved in Welfare Rights and then, more recently, action against the war in Iraq , the Campaign Against Depleted Uranium and Fairtrade. Joy lives in Castle Douglas and is a member of Amnesty International and treasurer of the local branch of the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign. She has one grown up son, who lives in Edinburgh.

Joy has chosen to accept the invitation to visit Palestine during this week of action as she feels that “to be silent – to turn away and act as if she is unaware of the atrocities being committed by the Israeli state on a daily basis against Palestinian citizens - is to be complicit in that oppression.”
Mick Napier is a University lecturer based in Edinburgh and is chair of the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign. He is UK co-ordinator of the "Welcome to Palestine" initiative.

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