NY Times likens violent 'fly-in' agitators to Christian pilgrims in Bethlehem
Pro-Palestinian provocateurs throughout Europe planned a massive ''fly-in'' to Ben-Gurion Airport this week to engage in anti-Israel demonstrations upon arrival at the airport and thence to the West Bank to rally with Palestinian demonstrators.
But instead of hundreds of agitators managing to carry out these plans, only a handful made it through Israeli security. Most were barred from boarding their flights in Europe as a result of a blacklist of suspected rabble-rousers Israel sent to airlines with a request to deny them passage, while others were arrested at Ben-Gurion and now await deportation back to Europe.
A few, however, trickled through Israeli security and promptly hooked up with violent Palestinian demonstrators who clashed Saturday with Israeli security forces at two West Bank checkpoints. According to Israeli media, one of the clashes that involved the hurling of stones at IDF troops included "fly-in" participants, thus justifying earlier warnings by Prime Minister Netanyahu and other Israeli officials that Israel would not tolerate foreign "provocateurs" and "hoodlums" bent on entering the country to engage in public disorder.
Leftists in Israel and elsewhere, however, denounced Israel's security precautions as excessive and draconian -- a view also espoused by Jerusalem correspondent Isabel Kershner in a Saturday dispatch in the New York Times, "Israel Blocks Air Travelers to Palestinian Conference," July 9).
Determined to depict intruding agitators as peaceful visitors, Kershner stationed herself in Bethlehem (her dateline reads "Bethlehem, West Bank"), where she awaited the arrival of these supposedly harmless air travelers for a week-long program of "fellowship."
To underscore their supposedly peaceful bona fides, Kershner wrote in the second paragraph of her piece that, after all, "Israel has traditionally been welcoming of foreign tourists, including more than a million Christian pilgrims who visited this Palestinian city of the Nativity last year."
Imagine her disappointment that Israel didn't put out the welcome mat to these Gandhiesque "fly-in" pilgrims.
"There were persistent reports," Kershner informed Times readers," that the foreign visitors would try to create chaos and paralyze the airport, despite strenuous denials from the organizers of the campaign, who advocate nonviolence." Kershner thus was confident enough to give these agitators and their hosts a kosher, non-violent stamp of approval.
But no sooner did her dispatch make it into the New York Times than Israeli media reported Palestinian clashes with IDF units at West Bank protests, including one demonstration where some of these allegedly non-violent guests participated in stone-hurling attacks on IDF troops.
And here was Kershner stranded in Bethlehem where she placed a journalistic bet that the "fly-in" would proceed in a hallowed place guaranteed to assure that "all is calm, all is bright."