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Flytilla Grounded

The second, doomed attempt at a 'Flytilla' – a mass fly-in to Israel by pro-Palestinian activists with the aim of highlighting Israel's apartheid regime, which closes Palestine off from the rest of the world – occurred last week. In a sad way, it proved its point. More than 1000 international activists were prevented from flying into Israel on Sunday (15th) and a further forty three were detained at Tel Aviv airport, as part of the 'Welcome to Palestine 2012' campaign. Thirty-one were immediately imprisoned, including a Mavi Mamara survivor who'd slipped through the net, while twelve were sent on the next flight back home. Nine Israelis protesting in sympathy with the Flytilla were also arrested in Ben Gurion Airport. Flytilla prisoners were kept for several days before being released.

Israel's Ministry of Interior had sent out a list of about 1200 names to airlines of people blacklisted from flying into the country, and their willingness to agree has prompted protesters to threaten to sue. Others took a more direct route - the budget airline Jet2 had their check-in desk in Manchester closed briefly after 100 activists challenged their decision. Easyjet was also under the spotlight after refusing flights (but at least agreed to refund protesters).

The action took place soon after an Israeli army officer came under fire for an slamming a Dutch pro-Palestinian protester in the face with a rifle, and just two days before 1200 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails began an open-ended hunger strike against cruel and degrading treatment. They are demanding their right to family visits, an end to isolation, and an end to so-called 'administrative detention' which allows prisoners to be held indefinitely without charge. Eight non-Palestinian prisoners have been reported as joining the strike in solidarity with the Palestinian political prisoners, including British protesters detained as part of the flytilla.

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