‘Airflotilla 2’ & “normal, average Europeans”

Earlier in the week the organisers of the ‘Airflotilla 2’ (‘Welcome to Palestine’) campaign held a press conference in Bethlehem. Among the speakers the organisers chose to address journalists was the mayor of Bethlehem, Victor Batarseh who urged Israel to allow the flytilla activists in.

“These people are coming to talk about peace, they are not coming to wage war against Israel,” he said. “They are coming to visit the Palestinian people who are under occupation and to talk to them and to help them because these people are isolated.”

 “We are asking our neighbors the Israeli government to make it easy for these people to enter the Palestinian National Authority, so that we can have this message of peace starting from this holy city of Bethlehem.”

He called on Europe and the United States to support the protest. People who speak out about Israel’s policies are called “anti-Semitic,” he said, but urged the US and Europe not to fear this label.

Whilst he can certainly talk the talk, Mayor Batarseh’s ‘message of peace’ should be seen in light of the fact that he recently took part in the ‘Christ at the Checkpoint conference held in his town, during which he told the audience that the Palestinians were being crucified by Israeli security measures, Bethlehem was a giant prison and that Jesus Christ, embodied by the Palestinian people, was imprisoned in the city by the security barrier.

Batarseh is known to be allied to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) – a terrorist organization proscribed by Canada, the EU and the US. In January this year Batarseh attended a memorial service for PFLP founder George Habash held in Beit Sahour.  Terror attacks perpetrated by the PFLP include:

  • On July 22, 1968, the PFLP hijacked its first plane, an El Al flight from Rome to Tel Aviv.
  • In September 1970, the PFLP hijacked three passenger planes and took them to airfields in Jordan, where the PLO was then based; after the planes were emptied, the hijackers blew them up. In response, King Hussein of Jordan decided that Palestinian radicals had gone too far and drove the PLO out of his kingdom.
  • In 1972, PFLP and Japanese Red Army gunmen murdered two dozen passengers at Israel’s international airport in Lod.
  • In 1976, breaking a PLO agreement to end terrorism outside Israeli-held territory, PFLP members joined with West German radical leftists from the Baader-Meinhof Gang to hijack an Air France flight bound for Tel Aviv and landed the plane in Entebbe, Uganda. In a now-famous raid, Israeli commandos freed the hostages. [Despite the overall success of the raid, three hostages were killed in the firefight and one was killed by Ugandan Army officers in a nearby hospital.]

Also speaking at the ‘Welcome to Palestine’ press conference was project organizer Mazin Qumsiyeh who said of the campaign’s participants:

“These are not hooligans. The people who are coming are normal, average Europeans who want to learn and visit people under occupation,”

Hooliganism is defined as ‘rowdy, violent or destructive behaviour’ or alternatively; ‘willful, wanton and malicious destruction of the property of others’. Some might say that the attempts of Mazin Qumsiyeh and his Palestine Justice Network to eliminate the Israeli state amount to little less.

Certainly, Mazin Qumsiyeh and Mustafa Barghouti –  an endorser of the ‘Air Flotilla 2’ – do not qualify as being best placed to define hooliganism in light of their equally suspect definition of the recent March 30th ‘Global March to Jerusalem’ events  (which they also co-organised) as ‘non-violent resistance’ and Barghouti’s active participation in the Qalandiya riots.

Neither, of course, is Qumsiyeh’s definition of the ‘Air Flotilla 2’ participants as “normal, average Europeans” at all accurate. Average Europeans do not – unlike the members of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign or London BDS  (both of which are involved in ‘Welcome to Palestine’)  – align themselves with the oppressive human-rights abusing, terror financing and supporting  Iranian regime by promoting and participating in ‘Al Quds Day marches.

Normal Europeans do not march under the flags of terrorist organisations such as Hizbollah and Hamas who indiscriminately murder civilians. Average Europeans do not disrupt cultural events and call for boycotts of a democratic country as a means of bringing about its dismantling. And ordinary Europeans certainly do not try to deliberately get themselves deported from other countries by knowingly engineering provocations.

As for Qumsiyeh’s claim that the ‘Air Flotilla 2’ participants wanting to “learn” about the conflict – that of course is highly dubious. Seasoned activists such as these are precisely what they are because of the fact that they have no desire to have their well-entrenched opinions challenged by facts and knowledge.

But let’s say they did. A viewing of this video made by Mustafa Barghouti shows exactly what participants in the ‘Air Flotilla 2’ will be ‘learning’ on their trip – should they actually arrive.

36 replies »

  1. The Guardian’s Sherwood files a piece on this. Does she report, does she question, and does she even understand English? No. none of this is necessary to be on the Guardian’s staff.

    She recounts the words of Norma Turner:

    “It never crossed my mind that Israel could stop people with British passports leaving British airports,” she told the Guardian.

    You’d think ‘the Guardian’ could have mentioned to Ms Turner that she has the wrong end of the stick and that while Israel can’t stop Brits leaving the UK – Ms Turner is perfectly free to visit anywhere she likes, for example, Syria or Majorca are sunny at this time of the year- the Israelis can stop Brits (or anyone else) from entering Israel. But no – Turner is providing good copy over the telephone and her account dovetails with Sherwood’s understanding of Israel’s malign power.

    Sherwood then gets on the blower to Qumsiyeh;

    Israel’s response was “paranoid and hysterical”, said Mazin Qumsiyeh, one of the organisers of the Welcome to Palestine programme and a university professor in Bethlehem. “They simply don’t want the world to know what’s going on in Palestine.”

    ‘Israel does not want the world’ to know, blahblah, says Qumsiyeh to Sherwood who, sits alone, isolated and terrified in Jerusalem, unable to find out what’ is going on in Palestine and unable to report back to the world. In the world’s least reported area, it is just as well brave reporter Sherwood is there.

    Sherwood then has the problem of finding a suitable, rabble-rousing end to her piece without having to leave her flat – so back to Turner for the money quote.

    Turner said she would seek legal advice on’s move. “I think the airline should honour its commitment. We had checked in, and we have our boarding passes.
    “Every country has the right to control its own borders. But to stop us leaving British shores just shows the extent of Israel’s power and influence.”

    You have to laugh. Norma Turner accepts that countries have the right to control their borders but persists in her delusion that Israel is stopping her from leaving Blighty. Paranoid and hysterical, egged on by Sherwood, Norma actually believes that Israel’s power and influence are preventing Norma and her friends from leaving Manchester. So our ace reporter manages to expose poor Norma to ridicule while at the same time Sherwood uses her as a dupe to circulate, by proxy, a conspiracy theory – Israel’s fearsome power and influence have reached out as far as Manchester to prevent nice Mancunians from leaving British shores. Well done, Sherwood, clap, clap, clap.

    By the way, I do think it is a bit mean not to give poor Norma and her silly friends a voucher that they can use on their next flight with Jet2 – but I daresay there is some exclusion clause in the 50 pages of terms & conditions. We’ve all been there, Norma, love.

    • Ms Turner should have bought her return ticket for the same flight back to Manchester – I’m sure that Jet2 happily would allow her to board…

    • You’d think ‘the Guardian’ could have mentioned to Ms Turner that she has the wrong end of the stick and that while Israel can’t stop Brits leaving the UK – Ms Turner is perfectly free to visit anywhere she likes, for example, Syria or Majorca are sunny at this time of the year- the Israelis can stop Brits (or anyone else) from entering Israel. But no – Turner is providing good copy over the telephone and her account dovetails with Sherwood’s understanding of Israel’s malign power.

      A visit to Darfur might give Turner some perspective. Then again, perhaps it would be a complete waste of time.

      Israel is evil. Evil. Evil. And don’t you forget it.

    • John, there is much older but still valid psychological research on rigidity of thinking and the purposes it serves for the rigid thinker.

      The more rigid the thinker, the more certain he/she is to be more nervous of change, to need more certainty (which is of course impossible for very long) than the average more well-adjusted person, and is signifanctly more prone to alter and misconstrue what is told him/her and be overly selective about what they read (screening out and even thought blocking to avoid what makes them uncomfortable and challenges their world view) so as to give themselves that specious sense of absolute certainty. They tend to gravitate towards extremes as we have seen. Their fury when anyone challenges them is as a result of this fear of allowing reality to enter their thought processes. Were that to happen their little world, built as it is on a fragile mirage, would to crumble. They are comfortable only when surrounded by people who think like them.

      If once they are forced to question what they have declared they believe this may have to lead to a massive and very uncomfortable rethink of everything they thought they believed.

      Such behaviour arises from a cognitive and emotional kink as a response to severe anxiety and perhaps fear of being thought to be stupid or not to matter much in the scheme of things. These useful idiots probably feel more alive, however wrongheaded their reasoning, than they have felt in years and small wonder that they fight anything which threatens to undermine that.

      Their need for certainty makes them willing dupes for those who speak with apparent certainty. They are the accompanying polarity of the authoritarian personality, the sheep-like masses without which dictators could not survive.

      • Yes. I suspect that Sherwood has flashes of self-awareness when she realises that she is and always has been, at best, a very average ‘reporter’. But rather than tackling her ignorance and lack of curiosity – that would be too uncomfortable and would require real work- she prefers to remain out of her depth. What an uncomfortable place to be, no?

        So easier to remain in the comfort zone of idees recues gleaned from conversations with taxi drivers, fixers, the regulars at the bar of the American Colony and her ‘mates’ at the Guardian.

        • John, Sherwood’s reaction to flashes of self-awareness is likely to be discomfort and attempts to block the thoughts and/or to strive harder to tell more lies to prove she cannot be wrong about what she has already written.

          She will probably tell herself all sorts of stories about why she isn’t wrong or out of her depth or whatever or, like the Palestinians with whom she overidentifies, will blame everyone but herself when things go so wrong that she gets herself into big trouble.

          O/T but from PM on Radio 4, a propos the continuing bloodshed in Syria, Eddie Maher, the presenter, declared that a ceasefire in which people are still shooting at each other is no ceasefire. Really? Why the deafening silence about the continued launching of missiles at Israel in spite of Hamas’ ceasefire? You couldn’t make this up – but then many of these journalists probably do.

          They certainly exhibit an unhealthy tendency to deny reality or compartmentalise so that they rarely have to face it.

    • Good God. So the Israeli govt. has decided not to admit three “activists” into the country. It’s hardly bloody headline news, is it, Harriet Sherwood?

      But despite at least including the obvious fact – that Israel is not, of course, stopping anybody board the plane in Manchester – she gives the last ominous line to this Turner character, i.e. the “Israel’s power and influence” BS at the end.

      Great response, John.

  2. Five minutes’ silence, please, for the death of critical thinking and the woeful use of emotional thinking as fact at the Groan. Toll the bell

  3. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office updated its travel advice on 05 April 2012, it is available for all to see on the FCO website.
    It is clear;
    “We are aware of a planned ‘Flightilla’ on 15-16 April. We advise against any attempt to enter Israel as part of a ‘Flightilla’.”
    Now if anyone wants to ignore the advice of the FCO, and still attempt to take part in this stunt that will do nothing to advance peace or bring any improvement to the lives of people living in the area but only comfort to the terrorist ‘godfathers’ of Hamas and Hezbullah, they are free to do so.
    But they should not be surprised when any airline refuses to carry them, or expect any help from the FCO if, as they should be, they are arrested on arrival in Israel.

  4. This Flytilla is turning into a circus,fine these “activists” that do manage to get through,and give the proceeds of these fines to the Jewish citizens of Judea and Samaria…….

  5. I was surprised to see you included the Mustafa Barghouti video without much comment. I cannot vouch for every fact and statistic in it but as a whole it is a calm and considered presentation of the Palestinian case. What’s to scoff at?

    If CifWatchers have significant specific criticisms of the video I’d be interested to see them. As ever ad hominem slanders and vulgar abuse will not be considered adequate response.

    • The fact that Barghouti can get through a 14 minute video without mentioning the word ‘terror’ is commentary enough.

      • True he doesn’t mention ‘terror’. He might have mentioned that Israel was founded on the back of a terror campaign; think King David Hotel and Deir Yassin. He might have mentioned that two of Israel’s prime ministers were terrorist leaders (Begin and Shamir). He might have mentioned the numerous examples of state terrorism meted out by Israel over the last sixty odd years – but 14 minutes would not nearly have covered that list.

        • sencar you are right, he might have mentioned the things you list.

          But, if he had he would have been spreading myths, half-truths and downright lies. Although that would be nothing new for either of you.

          However thank you for the clear example of the meaning of the phrase “A drowning man clutching at straws”.
          Perhaps to your own list of ‘significant specific criticisms’ you should add based on ‘truth and historical fact’, but then if you did you and the other ‘Groupies’ would not be able to post anything.

          • To come to specifics, Gerald, are you denying “that Israel was founded on the back of a terror campaign”, or that two of the campaign’s leaders were future Israel PMs.?

            • Israel was not founded on any terror campaign Sencar. It was founded on the terms agreed after WW1 and ratified by the League of Nations with the full agreement of the Arab representation at those post-WW1 conferences in Paris(1919) and San Remo (1920). Violence persisted and when it came to war, someone was going to lose it. BUT Sencar you nor Barghouti make any effort to deal with the worst of it: Barghouti’s omission to mention the Arabs rejecting the UN Partition Plan of 1947 and 5 Arab armies attacking the fledgling state in May 1948 is key to the problem that has not gone away. What the Arabs had was never enough. As Barghouti does not mention it, It’s down hill from there all the way.

              That is my view about the film Sencar. You can excuse Barghouti as much as you like. What he has said in it has been said many a time. He sounds reasonable in his tone of delivery, but what he says is tantamount to non-recognition of Jewish rights and that is not reasonable.That is as extreme as it comes.

              • Your understanding of post-WW1 settlements is sadly amiss, Another Joshua. However I will leave that for the present. Two points:

                1) The Arabs rejected the UN Partition Plan (which had been driven through the Assembly with the help of US threats and bribes) because it was grossly unfair and because the UN had no legal right to carve up the land at all. As Ben Gurion said, “The Arabs own 94% of the land, the Jews only 6%”. Nevertheless the Partition gave Jews 55% of Palestine.

                2) The Deir Yassin massacre took place in April 1948. By the time the British left and the Arab armies entered the following month most of the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians was complete and Jews occupied much of the land allocated to Arabs by the Partition Plan, as well as that allocated to them.

                • “The Arabs own 94% of the land, the Jews only 6%”
                  That former figure is definitely nonsense.

                  • The Ben Gurion 6% quote is taken from his evidence to the United Nations Special Commission on Palestine in 1947.A Palestinian estimate of 5.6% Jewish and 94.3% Arab land ownership in 1947 can be found here:

                    Seems they agree about something….

                    In terms of population the balance was much closer – roughly two thirds Arab, one third Jewish. Even so the award of 55% of the land to one third of the people seems unfair to me, as it did to the Arabs at the time.

                    • A trawl through the archive of CIF Watch arrived at this piece.Perhaps a little simplistic, but it makes the correct point, that the greater part of the territory was uncultivated land and not owned by either Arab or Jew.


                      On reviewing the article you have provided the link, I can only conclude that it is indeed confusing and suggests either Arabs “owned” 94% of Palestine, which is what it hopes the reader will believe, or misleads by arguing that Arabs owned 94% of the 30% of Palestine, that was owned by anyone, which may be more or less correct, but the correct percentages depend at what point in time the statement holds some semblance of truth. Jews actively purchased large amounts of land from Arab landlords over time and therefore the balance of ownership changed. It is the very fact that so much land area was uncultivated and therefore unpopulated that this land was considered a practical solution to finding a homeland for Jews. We all know that the Yishuv and later larger Jewish colonies after settling, that the land took on a different landscape over time.

                      As I have said, 70% of the land area was uncultivated, or Mawat land, and at the end of WW1 was the land mandated, from the Turks.

                • It’s not often I can totally agree with Pretzelberg, but on this occasion he is absolutely right, and you Sencar are wrong.

                  At the end of WW1, Jews owned 8% of Palestine. This does not
                  however infer that the Arabs owned 92%. They in fact owned 22%.70%

                  of the land was mainly uncultivated land that reverted to the Ottomans. When the Mandate was created, the land vested in the British on trust for the beneficiaries. This is , by the way, if you have not realised, during the period well before the UN .

                  Much has been made of Deir Yassin, but the exodus of Arabs long preceded Deir Yassin. Benny Morris has written extensively on this topic. What you will find however is a migration of Arabs (and some Jews) starting to happen around November 1947 at the threat of a civil war, when the British were still present. The first to leave were the Arab middle classes including the elements that made up the leadership, the vast majority not at gun point , though there were incidents. Not as the Barghouti film makes out. You can listen to a lecture on youtube that he gave. It is longer than 14 minutes, but I think you will agree, Barghouti’s account is grossly misleading.

            • many thanks sencar for your query.
              I see no reason to add anything to my post to you above, dated April 15, 2012 at 5.55 am., and refer you to its content.

    • sencar I’ve been waiting for you, and the rest of the ‘Guardian Groupies’ who post here, to post “significant specific criticisms” of Israel or this site since I can remember.
      Sadly I’m still waiting.

    • Sencar. Comment from me. Potholed with inaccuracy and made up myth.
      No ad hominem needed. No mention of 5 Arab armies attacking Israelis is just one important omission one cannot excuse. The rest is built on a wishful make-up of facts that the undiscerning anti-zionist mob will lap up.

    • OK. Thanks for admitting that you cannot vouch for every fact and statistic, which is very big of you.

  6. It would deter future ‘flytillas’ if Israel introduced a US-type ‘visa waiver’ scheme for those wishing to enter the country from the EU and certain other locations.

    For example: a UK citizen wishing to enter the USA as a tourist has to apply via internet to the American embassy in London’s website. There are several pertinent questions and an applicant has to state whether or not they have ever been arrested (even if subsequently released without charge); whether or not they have ever been ordered to leave the US, etc. Before the ‘visa waiver’ certificate is issued on-line the applicant has to pay a fee.

    If the potential tourist answers ‘yes’ to a single question requiring a ‘no’ they are automatically informed that they will need a visa which must be applied for and might not be granted.

    Even with a ‘visa waiver’ certificate it clearly states that it does not guarantee that the holder will be admitted to the US when arriving and there is no right of appeal if an immigration officer decides not to admit the arrivee.

    If Israel introduced such a scheme the ‘flytilla’ would never be feasible and those wishing to take part in it would have to pay the Israeli embassy for their ‘visa waiver’ certificates before being able to fly, assuming they met the conditions. No airline will fly a tourist to the USA from a UK airport unless they have a ‘visa waiver’ certificate or a visa, have a return ticket showing they will leave inside 90 days and have an address for their first night after arrival.

    • If Israel introduced such a scheme the ‘flytilla’ would never be feasible and those wishing to take part in it would have to pay the Israeli embassy for their ‘visa waiver’ certificates before being able to fly, assuming they met the conditions.

      Yes. Problem is that Israel’s tourism has flourished since visa restrictions were done away with for European countries. And what you are suggesting would increase hassle for all people wanting to visit when only an infinitely small number actually want to do Israel any harm.

  7. Early reports indicate the meticulously planned flytilla is turning out to be a big flop.

    Four airlines have refused to board named bigots, sorry activists, and Israeli police have already nabbed some early arrivals. I hope they are frog-marched round Yad Vashem before being kicked out.

  8. If Batarseh really did say that the Palestinians are being “crucified” by Israeli security measures and that Jesus Christ is “embodied by the Palestinian people”, then isn’t that rather blasphemous?