Socialist Worker

Flytilla activist detained in Israel for joining Palestine protest

by Siân Ruddick
Issue No. 2300

Karolin Hijazi, a pro‑Palestinian activist from Aberdeen, was arrested in Israel and held for four nights after attempting to join a protest for Bethlehem.

She was one of around 1,500 people who joined a Welcome to Palestine “flytilla” protest against Israel’s blockade of the West Bank.

The activists planned to fly to Israel from across the world on 15 April to help build a school in a Palestinian refugee camp in Bethlehem.

Karolin got as far as Ben Gurion International airport in Tel Aviv, but that was further than most.

She told Socialist Worker, “About two thirds of people were prevented from flying—they were blocked by the Israeli government. They told the flight companies that they would fine them if they let people on their list board the plane.”

Karolin said this is blackmail by the Israeli state. She added, “I was in a group of about ten who were allowed to fly from Manchester—but another 20 were banned from flying. This was completely unprecedented.

“The criteria for blocking people seemed completely arbitrary. The vast majority of people hadn’t been to Palestine before.”

Passport

Her group arrived in Tel Aviv. She said, “We got to passport control and they asked the purpose of our stay. I said six words, ‘I want to go to Palestine’.

“Immigration officers took us and held us in different security rooms in the airport, then put us in a van and took us to prison. They gave us each a letter telling us that there were bigger problems in the region and that Israel was the only democracy.”

They were not interrogated. But when the activists refused food in solidarity with hunger striking Palestinian protesters, guards stopped them spending time outside their cells.

They were prevented from sleeping by night raids on their cells and blocked from having phone calls. Muslim detainees were deprived of their prayer books from the outset.

The experience has not deterred Karolin from future protests. She said, “We got so many messages of support from Palestinians, and people back in Britain.

“We got messages from trade unionists and MPs in Britain so what happened to us has helped raise awareness about what’s happening in Palestine.

“We knew we were getting out—but hundreds of Palestinians face indefinite detention by the Israeli state and don’t know if they’ll ever get out.”


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International
Tue 24 Apr 2012, 16:25 BST
Issue No. 2300
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