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Israeli minister likens fly-in to ‘Twin Towers disaster’

Hysteria at the airport

Op-ed: Exaggerated Israeli preparations for pro-Palestinian fly-in play into our foes’ hands
Haim Zisovitch

A dull and not-so-funny joke I remember from childhood recounts the story of a child who was late to come home at night, and in order not to alert his sleeping parents used drums and trumpets to cover up the sound of his steps.

This is precisely how Israel has been dealing with the Gaza-bound flotilla, and now with the subsequent fly-in. If the intention of flotilla and fly-in organizers was to direct global attention to Gaza, Israel’s government and law enforcement agencies are doing everything to help them and even boost the resonance.

Below is a summary of the numerous reports about preparations for the fly-in. First of all, the name: Referring to several hundred tired passengers arriving on regular commercial flights by the grandiose name “fly-in” seems exaggerated, doesn’t it? And some go even further: The provocation fly-in, the Palestinian fly-in, and so on.

Following the menacing name, we receive military-sounding reports from various ministries. We are told about intelligence preparations ,assessments, meetings held by senior officials, a tour of Ben Gurion Airport to “look into the situation from up close,” undercover detectives, a task force, reinforcement of security and feverish preparations. Israel is preparing for war, not for a protest.

Next: The Prime Minister’s Office issues frequent statements about every thought and step undertaken ahead of the fly-in, and every such statement makes headlines, of course. The prime minister appoints Minister Aharonovitch to “coordinate the deployment ahead of the fly-in” (why appoint him? Isn’t it the internal security minister’s job anyway?) The minister wastes no time and rushes to tell journalists: “We shall not allow hooligans to protest.”

Meanwhile, the prime minister holds on to the microphones and pledges that “we are preparing to cope with the fly-in firmly and politely.” Such dual statements are favored by government spokespeople. Remember the “sensitivity and determination” slogans from the Gaza disengagement days?

‘Remember September 11th’
The Foreign Ministry’s spokesman suggests that we “not downplay the indications we see on the Internet,” while Minister of Diaspora Affairs contributes his wealth of experience and boosts the hysteria: “We must prepare for any scenario vis-à-vis the fly-in. We should keep our eyes open and keep in mind what happened in the Twin Towers disaster.”

Media outlets are also contributing. They interview the ministers and officers “appointed to coordinate the mission,” they take photos of the airport “where preparations for the fly-in are being completed,” and they also publish images of the structure being modified to serve as a “detention center for rioters” before they are returned to the planes and sent back to where they came from.

To sum it all up, we see a media-covered visit by the prime minister at the airport in order to “scrutinize” the preparations for the “provocation fly-in,” followed by a meeting of “senior officials” with the minister, police chief and Shin Bet director, in order to “discuss the deployment,” with the PM providing “final instructions” on handling the flying protestors. We haven’t seen such determination since we saw Ehud Barak’s picture wearing a white vest on the Sabena plane’s wing.

This is not a deployment, but rather, hysteria. Fly-in organizers can go ahead, cancel their tickets and save their money. The Israeli government did the job for them. There is no need to crowd into tourist class and eat pre-packaged meals in order to hold up signs at the terminal. Israel’s PR establishment is offering its fine services free of charge.

Haim Zisovitz, a media advisor, heads the communication unit at Bar Ilan University’s School of Communication

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