“In the height of demagoguery, Binyamin Netanyahu calls upon peace and human rights activists to go Syria and Iran, and this pack of absurdities go echoing though the official and unofficial government mouthpieces. The Prime Minister did not notice that exactly by making this comparison he is putting the State of Israel on one level with these oppressive regimes and himself significantly contributes to the delegitimation of Israel” said former Knesset Member Uri Avnery, Gush Shalom activist.
“Today is a black and shameful page in the history of the State of Israel. The massive aggressive play staged today at Ben Gurion Airport, the hundreds of police flooding the terminal, the systematic hunt for every traveler who dared to openly admit being headed to Bethlehem, as if this was the most horrible of crimes, the hysterical assault on a handful of Israeli peace activists who dared to express a dissident opinion, the worldwide campaign of pressures and threats to make airlines cancel the flights of hundreds of passengers. Had the government set out to exhibit to the world the image of an ugly Israel – oppressive, aggressive, nationalistic, tolerating no criticism – then today was a huge success. But if they had wanted to corroborate the assertion that Israel is “the only democracy in the Middle East”, the government’s conduct conveyed the very opposite message. The government’s “victory” over the the international activists was the very epitome of a pyrrhic victory.
The Assad regime in Syria is already for a year facing worldwide condemnation for its atrocities, and now the international community is finally beginning to intervene there, even if too little and too late. Courageous human rights activists in Syria are risking their lives to transmit messages and images, and deserve all respect and honor. All this does not clear or exonerate the State of Israel of its responsibility for the last 44 years – more than two thirds of its entire history – in which Israel maintains an oppressive rule over four million people and systematically steals their land. There is indeed no doubt that in the count of sheer bloodshed Syria is at this moment ahead Israel – but it would be better for Israel not to boast too much about this. Human rights activists around the world could and should deal with human rights violations, wherever they occur – in Syria, in Iran and also in the Palestinian territories under Israeli occupation. The Israeli peace activists, who came to the airport to protest the government’s aggressive conduct and welcome the international activists, helped restore a bit of Israel’s good name”.