Disturbance at airport won’t be tolerated

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REGARDING an article in the County Times of July 14 about Audrey Gray’s experience in Israel, rest assured that the Israeli authorities went beyond their basic obligations to ensure the comfort of those being held, providing hot meals, regular contact with their families at home, and issuing passengers with any necessary medication.

Furthermore, they immediately contacted the British Embassy which provided consular support and visits from British officials. All those detained were treated according to the law, as practised in any democratic state. Ms Gray came on a tourist visa and as a guest of the state, is required to behave responsibly, as would be expected from visitors to the UK or elsewhere.

Open, colourful and lively debates across a range of issues are a hallmark of any democracy, Israel included.

Nevertheless, given the sensitivity of international airports - whether Ben Gurion, Heathrow or JFK - they are not an appropriate venue for actions of a politically provocative nature.

Israel warmly welcomes millions of tourists each year. We are obligated to protect the safety and wellbeing of all passengers and visitors and take this responsibility extremely seriously.

The stated intentions of the detainees, however, left no doubt that they aimed to cause a disturbance at Israel’s international airport. No other state would tolerate this and neither will we.

If Ms Gray and her travel companions truly wish to show solidarity with all the peoples of the region, might I suggest they plan a similar sight-seeing trip to Damascus International Airport, where they could gain an interesting insight into the varying methods of border control and law enforcement across the Middle East.

AMIR OFEK

Counsellor for media affairs, Embassy of Israel

Palace Green

London W8