More than 600 police officers were on duty at Ben-Gurion International Airport Sunday to prevent an anticipated flood of "Flytilla" arrivals from Europe who planned to take part in a weeklong series of activities in Bethlehem.
Fewer than 30 people were turned back Sunday, which had Israeli commentators shaking their heads at the seeming over-reaction, The New York Times said.
"Instead of waiting to present the crackpot activists with flowers, putting them on buses and leading them directly to their destination in Bethlehem, the heads of the defense establishment and security forces have once again lost their minds," Eitan Haber wrote in the newspaper Yediot Aharonot.
Other commentators said Israel now looked to the world like a nation that bars peace activists from entering.
On arrival, the activists were detained and deported to their point of embarkation, police officials said. They were also to be handed an official letter from the government of Israel, Ynetnews.com said.
The letter criticized the activists for making Israel the object of their humanitarian concerns, saying they could have protested against Syria, Iran or Hamas. "But instead you chose to protest against Israel, the Middle East's sole democracy, where women are equal, the press criticizes the government, human rights organizations can operate freely, religious freedom is protected for all and minorities do not live in fear," the letter said.
"Therefore we suggest to let you solve first the real problems of the region, and then come back and share with us your experience. Have a nice flight," Ynetnews.com quoted the letter as saying.