JERUSALEM: Organizers of a planned pro-Palestinian demonstration said Friday they expect about 1,000 activists from Europe and North America to board flights for Israel this weekend, despite Israeli threats to deport them.
Activists with the ''Welcome to Palestine'' campaign are set to land in Israel on dozens of flights Sunday. They say they wish to travel to nearby Bethlehem in the West Bank to participate in a week of activities, like the dedication of a school and homestays with Palestinian families.
Mazin Qumsiyeh, a Palestinian campaign organizer, said the activists were coming to exercise their right to visit the Palestinian territories.
''The object is not to fly in to make a protest at the airport. The object is for foreigners to visit us,'' Qumsiyeh said. ''Even prisoners are allowed visits.''
Israel's public security minister has called the activists ''provocateurs'' and said they are bent on disturbing the public order.
Israel has been jittery about large influxes of foreign activists since a naval raid on a Gaza-bound flotilla in May 2010 turned deadly.
The Israeli navy and the pro-Palestinian activists have each accused each other of sparking the bloodshed in which nine Turkish activists were killed.
Last July, Israel blocked an effort similar to ''Welcome to Palestine'' campaign. It beefed up security at the airport, questioned dozens of activists upon arrival at the airport and denied entry to 69.
This weekend Israel says it will round up activists who land in the country and deport them.
Israel has also compiled a list of activists it suspects have booked flights to Israel for the campaign, and has warned airlines they would have to fly those passengers back to their cities of origin if they were allowed on flights to Israel.
During last year's fly-in, many airlines barred blacklisted activists from flying to Israel.
German airline company Lufthansa said this year it had received a list of names of activists from Israel and would prevent those passengers from its flights to Israel.