In July as the second international flotilla of ships tried to break Israel’s siege on Gaza, hundreds of internationals organized a “flytilla” to Israel’s Ben Gurion airport. Participants challenging Israel’s denial-of-entry policy, which prevents Palestinians living abroad and internationals from entering the Occupied Territories, carried invitations to visit a Palestinian refugee camp in the West Bank city of Bethlehem.
CPTer John Lynes was among 12 people who flew from the United Kingdom. In explaining his decision to join the “flytilla” Lynes wrote:
“For years I’ve felt ashamed at the way my Palestinian friends and their Western well wishers have been humiliated, intimidated and dehumanised when trying to enter the West Bank through Ben Gurion airport… The Israelis have destroyed Palestinian airports near Ramallah and Gaza City, so it is now impossible to reach the West Bank except through Israeli Security.
…Normally we go through the tiresome ritual of persuading Israeli authorities that we are innocent pilgrims or tourists. This time we are going to tell the truth. And we will refuse to be deported. The Israelis must either imprison us, or let us proceed.
…I’m not expecting a smooth passage... I have chosen this step without bitterness or antagonism. I wish for the Israelis what I wish for my own children – a life free from fear and hatred.”
Israeli authorities did indeed imprison Lynes and those traveling with him for several days. Upon arriving safely back home, Lynes wrote to supporters:
“…I was whisked off to a side room with about thirty people. Later…the men, some handcuffed and shackled, were herded into police wagons in stifling heat and kept for a long time without water. Eventually [they] deposited us at Ramle Prison in the heart of Israel.
…We were not told why we had been arrested, so on Monday morning we started a hunger strike, asking to be told the nature of our offence. This seems to have accelerated our release.
…I had hoped to reach Hebron to meet old friends. In that respect I was disappointed. But our purpose was to focus on the plight of West Bank Palestinians, and in this we seem to have been more effective.”