Israel's Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu commented on the wave of "flytilla" activists trying to enter Israel Sunday, saying, "Why did they come to Israel, the only real democracy in the Middle East?"
He suggested the activists turn to Syria, Iran, Gaza, or almost any other country in the Middle East instead, where the human rights violations are far graver.
"If they want to check the issue of human rights, they should go to Syria - maybe they will help stop the killing of thousands of innocents. They should go to Iran and stop the stoning of women. They should go to Gaza and stop the practice of using children as human shields for terrorists who fire rockets on our citizens," he continued.
"[And] after they do that educational tour, they should come to Israel and we can talk with them about what they learned about how the Middle East and how it really is."
The "flytilla" activists planned to "expose" Israel's tight control of movement in and out of the Palestinian territories by holding a news conference with roughly 1,500 people in the West Bank town of Bethlehem.
Israel's Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch praised police for enabling the airport to function normally on one of its busiest days. Security and media had expected up to 2,000 unruly activists, and prepared for it.
"As you can see, things are working normally at Ben-Gurion," the minister said, priasing European countries and airlines for refusing to allow hundreds of activists to even board aircraft bound for Israel.
If a passenger arrives in a country without a valid visa and is turned away, the cost for their return flight falls on the airline.
Due to the fact that many activists were unable to board said flights to Israel, or were turned away at the airport, small protests have sprung up in various European cities and airports.
"Today, the checkpoint is in Paris!" several demonstrators shouted at Roissy-Charles de Gaulle airport.
Israeli authorities echoed Netanyahu's statement in a letter they distributed to activists as they were turned away:
We appreciate your choosing to make Israel the object of your humanitarian concerns.
We know there are were many other worthy choices.
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.
We therefore suggest that you first solve the real problems of the region, and then come back and share with us your experience.
Have a nice flight.
The pro-Palestinian activists who successfully made it to the press conference maintain that they "are not criminals" and should be able to "fight peacefully" for what they believe in.