Home inContext From Flotilla to Airtilla

From Flotilla to Airtilla

Lauren Stone

The Gaza “Freedom Flotilla” scheduled to make its way toward Israel at the end of June hit rocky waters this week when Greece prohibited eight of the aid ships from leaving their ports in Greece, citing security concerns. Instead, the government offered to transfer the flotilla’s aid to Gaza itself.

Greece is taking a responsible stance and dealing with a particular situation,” said foreign ministry spokesman Grigoris Delavekouras. “And this situation says that there is an immediate danger to human life by participating in this attempt…. The region doesn’t need this at the moment.” The ninth ship in the flotilla, a French boat, already set sail last week and was planning to meet up with the boats from Greece before heading to Gaza.

A Greek vessel (R) escorts the Audacity of Hope, part of an aid flotilla to Gaza, back to port.

As pro-Palestinian activists are halted in Greece, others are finding new ways to bring undue attention to Israel. This Friday, over 500 activists from Europe, North and South America, Asia, and Africa are expected to fly to Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion Airport to show their support for Palestinians. Following this “fly-in,” or “airtilla,” as it is being called, the group is planning a series of nonviolent activities in Israel and the West Bank that will last for approximately one week.

One of the orchestrators responsible for planning the “fly-in” is the International Solidarity Movement (ISM), a group that the Israel-based Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center (ITIC) calls “an extreme leftist network based in the United States specializing in sending activists to friction points.” According to the center, at the airport, activists “may escalate into a protest with a demand for the so-called ‘right of return,’ and a protest against Israel’s preventing foreign nationals from freely entering the ‘occupied Palestinian territories.'”

From the flotilla to the airtilla, anti-Israel activists are increasingly leaning on non-violent measures to continue to de-legitimize the Jewish state. But as the ITIC also notes, “past experience has shown that ‘passive resistance’ can deteriorate into violence.” And it often does. Little is known about the organizations or individuals planning this weekend’s fly-in to Israel. And as last year’s flotilla illustrated, it only takes a handful of people to turn a peaceful protest violent.