The ongoing political profiling of people at Ben Gurion Airport remains high on the public agenda. Last Friday night’s prime time Channel 2 News featured an interview with NIF’s Vice President of Finance, Operations, and Administration, Jennifer Spitzer. Last year, she was the first in a series of human rights activists to be harassed by authorities at Ben Gurion Airport.
Former Shin Bet chief Ami Ayalon denounced the policy on the same news program. “The Israeli security agency is becoming a problem for democracy… the service erred and broke a delicate line of balance, thus becoming a part of the problem rather than the solution.”
Conservative columnist Ben Dror Yemini addressed the issue in Yediot Achronot in an op-ed entitled “Detentions and Excuses.” He criticized the high-profile detentions of both Spitzer and of American Jewish journalist Peter Beinart while stressing the important role the Shin Bet has to play in protecting democracy.
“After the detention and questioning of Spitzer,” he wrote. “The head of the Population Authority apologized. And rightly so. Every organization makes mistakes. The problem is that the mistakes continue.”
In response to complaints by veteran NIF-grantee Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI), Deputy Attorney General Dina Zilber has instructed Shin Bet officials to reexamine its procedures and to establish oversight mechanism to check the agencies use of the practice. She nevertheless said that some questioning at border crossings may be necessary to prevent violent and illegal actions carried out from nationalistic motives or in relation to terrorist groups.
Meanwhile, the interrogations continue. Most recently, American student Lara Alqasem was denied entry despite receiving a visa from the Israeli Consulate in Miami. She has remained at the airport for more than a week. The granddaughter of Palestinians, she is due to study for a masters’ degree in human rights at the Hebrew University. Authorities allege that she is a BDS activist.
In an effort to shine a light on this phenomena and to provide practical assistance to activists who may find themselves detained for questioning, a group of NIF-supported organizations have produced a video clip which explains what you should do in the eventuality that you are stopped at one of Israel’s borders for questioning. In the clip an Arab woman explains that it happens to her all the time – now it is also happening to some Jews because of their political views.