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Israel dismisses 'flytilla' protest, pointing to human rights abuses in Syria, Iran

Israel denied entry and deported several dozen pro-Palestinian activists who flew into Tel Aviv's airport on Sunday, arguing they are missing the bigger regional issues.

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Israel denied entry and deported several dozen pro-Palestinian activists who arrived at Ben Gurion Airport on Sunday, as fears of a mass confrontation at the country’s main international gateway prompted a deployment of hundreds of police and security personnel. 

With turmoil in the region dominating the international agenda and diplomacy on Palestinian statehood mothballed, the vacuum in the Israeli-Palestinian struggle is being filled by the civil disobedience of a limited but creative band of local and foreign activists. After today's round, both sides claimed victory in what many observers said was mainly a public relations battle. 

Palestinian organizers of the "Welcome to Palestine Campaign," argued that Israel’s refusal of the activists focused attention on claims of injustice in the West Bank and contradicted Israel’s boast of being the only democracy in the region. The Israeli government said it blocked activists bent on delegitimizing the Jewish state and sowing chaos, and mocked the activists for supposedly ignoring human rights violations in Syria.

Noam Sheizaf, an editor of +972, a dovish Israeli-Palestinian blog, said the results of the fly-in are mixed: Peaceful protests like the fly-in puts Israeli officials on the defensive. But they can’t compete with conflicts elsewhere in the region and would not pressure changes in Israeli policy like the June 2010 activist flotilla to Gaza that forced Israel to lift a blockade.

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