‘I know you have another email address, give it to me’ (Deported at Ben Gurion)

Israel/Palestine
on 24 Comments

ben gurion airport
ben gurion airport

“Write your email addresses, your mobile phone number, your house phone, the name of your father and the name of your grandfather on this piece of paper” were the first words the Shabak officer told me when I sat in front of him in his office.

As anyone involved in solidarity work with the Palestinian People will tell you, landing at Ben Gurion airport, in Tel Aviv, Israel and having to face questioning by the authorities, is never an exciting prospect. In the last couple of months, a few activists have been turned back. Due to my work with the Russell Tribunal on Palestine, I knew even before I arrived in front of the immigration desk that I was a likely target for hard questioning from the internal security service (Shin Bet, or Shabak).

I was coming to Palestine to visit old friends and also to take part in a conference on political prisoners organised in Ramallah as part of my role of coordinator for the Russell Tribunal. Due to the fact that Israel controls all the West Bank borders of Palestine (Sea, air and land), one has to go through Israeli officials in order to reach the Occupied Palestinian Territories. (Only Gaza now, via the Rafah border with Egypt, is accessible without too much Israeli interference).

So I wrote those details on the piece of paper in front of me. Except that I put an alternative email address, being fully aware that what the officer in front of me wanted was information about other people involved in Palestine and abroad with solidarity work. Mapping networks has in recent years been vigorously pursued by Israel.

The line of questioning, at first, stuck to my travel plans. Six days in Tel Aviv without a travel guide was too much to bear for the man. He then quickly moved to my personal details and asked me to log on to my email account, which is apparently less illegal (in Israel anyway) than I thought (see here  and here)

He started to get upset when my inbox opened and there was no message in it. He told me repeatedly “I know you have another email address. Give it to me”. “I only have this one” was the answer I stuck with throughout the whole process. I was taken to various offices throughout the whole interrogation process, spoke to a few people, who asked, again and again, the same questions. I had to wait for long periods between each interrogation. Palestine and political activity only were raised after about 3 hours of questioning. I was sort of relieved to hear the word because I knew deep down that the Shabak agent had known about my work on the Palestine issue from minute one. He even asked me, at one point: “What will google tell me if I search for your name?”

The goal, however, was somewhere else. The goal was to exhaust me into giving information about workmates, colleagues and various people I knew in Israel/Palestine. The exhaustion part worked. I was clearly on my knees at 4 am, having had no sleep for 24 hours, and faced with several unfriendly people questioning me. But they never got what they really wanted. My email account, and its content. After four hours of questioning, the verdict came (there were 5 people in the room, including me, at this time): “You lied to me. So you won’t get in. You will now be deported back.” (Still, right after telling me this, the officer tried one more time, telling me that he was my friend, here to help me and that if I collaborated he might change his decision). I was at this point taken to a room where I was body searched thoroughly (by a young man with an apologetic look on his face), and where my carry-on bag (only piece of luggage I brought) was fully checked, in and out, approximately three times, including passing through X-rays.

At roughly 4.30 am, I was put in a van, alone, and driven to my next destination; the deportation centre. (Why we stopped, for about 10 minutes, in between airplanes on the tarmac, is a question that remains unanswered). He told me before he dropped me off that I would be deported in 23 hours. “You’re lucky,” said the man. “Some people have to wait for a week here”

The next 23 hours were the longest in my life. With no means to know what the time was, it took forever. My cellmate, a 21-year-old Ukrainian man, who spoke no English at all and came to Israel in search of a better future, and I, were allowed two 10-minute breaks outside, under surveillance of course, and managed to catch a glimpse of the palm trees and the sunshine that we were, at this point, longing for. We were then joined by 2 older Ukrainians as well as a Chinese man.

What I did not know at the time was that a friend in Israel, at 9 am on Tuesday morning had contacted the office of Israeli lawyer Gabi Lasky to ask her to try to get more information regarding my whereabouts. (Did I enter? Was I being deported? Detained?). They did not want to say anything. It took many hours for Gabi to get confirmation that I was in the detention centre in the airport. [Gabi told me today on the phone that the authorities are making life harder and harder for lawyers and that they are being more difficult every day].

I was put back on a plane, escorted by an immigration official, my bag full of security tags, paraded in front of the other passengers, at 1 am the next day. The fact that the main air hostess was from Arab background and smiled at me when the immigration official handed her my passport felt, I have to say, very good at the time. 

While this was an extremely unpleasant experience, it is crucial to put things into a broader context. The pressure, fear and humiliation I often felt during this time, the scare tactics used by the Shabak (“Tell me the truth or you’re going to jail, right now”), and the short time spent in jail, are nothing compared to what the Palestinians are going through every day. Right now, more than 4500 Palestinian political prisoners are rotting in Israeli jails. A few of them have started “hunger strikes” and are slowly dying, while the “international community” (understood as the Western States, the EU and the UN) is doing nothing to come to their rescue. It is crucial to keep highlighting this. The inconvenience felt by a privileged international citizen should not overshadow the reason at the core of his activism: To acknowledge the right of the Palestinian People to resist their far more powerful occupier and to do so until the systematic and institutionalized apartheid system put in place by Israel ends; to expose the active role played by third parties (states, institutions and corporations) in supporting Israel’s occupation; and to highlight Israel’s impunity regarding countless resolutions passed by the UN General Assembly and the UN Security Council that have remained, so far, never followed by any concrete action.

It is our role as global actors involved in a global struggle for justice, freedom and dignity for all people, regardless of their ethnicity, political orientations, or countries of origin, to show solidarity with those people stripped of their rights. The breaking down of human civilization in sub-categories of human beings (privileges come depending on where you were born, while this act was simply an accident of nature), the slow crumbling of any “common decency”, solidarity and compassion showed by people towards others, can be reversed and is not ineluctable.

This can only happen if we all unite towards this goal.

Frank Barat is one of the coordinators of the Russell Tribunal on Palestine.

About Frank Barat

Frank Barat is a Human Rights activist based in London. He is one of the coordinators of the Russell Tribunal on Palestine, a popular tribunal created in 2009 to expose and examine Israel's impunity in regards to its treatment of the Palestinian People. He has edited two books; 'Gaza in Crisis' with Noam Chomsky and Ilan Pappe, and 'Corporate Complicity in Israel's Occupation' with Asa Winstanley. He has also participated in the book 'Is there a court for Gaza?' with Daniel Machover.

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24 Responses

  1. Denis
    April 28, 2013, 11:08 am

    He has edited two books; ‘Gaza in Crisis’ with Noam Chomsky and Ilan Pappe, and ‘Corporate Complicity in Israel’s Occupation’ with Asa Winstanley. He has also participated in the book ‘Is there a court for Gaza?’ with Daniel Machover.

    Sounds like the Israeli-Nazis were being lenient. With this (admirable) background, it’s a wonder they didn’t hold him in “administrative detention,” in which case we would never have heard a word of any of Mr. Barat’s travails for years to come.

    • Hostage
      April 28, 2013, 12:53 pm

      in which case we would never have heard a word of any of Mr. Barat’s travails for years to come.

      It’s not just the Israelis that are holding him back. The publisher, Springer, is charging nearly $200 for the eBook edition of the essay collection ‘Is there a court for Gaza?’

      I’ve plugged it here a couple of times, but at that price, most other people will just wait to see if it’s going to be made into a feature-length film;-)

      • Ecru
        April 29, 2013, 5:17 am

        I agree that does seem pricey, but if it’s an academic text (or there’s an assumption only academics will be interested in purchasing it) – well those books are generally expensive.

        I don’t think I’m telling you anything you don’t already know but I was just perusing Oxbow books and there’s one on 1st Mill B.C. Europe that’s over $160 dollars for exactly that reason.

    • Elisabeth
      April 29, 2013, 11:23 am

      Cut out the “Israeli-Nazis” bit please. I know that to many people comparing Israelis to Nazis is irresistible, because it is the most painful insult. But it is cheap and counterproductive.

      • Ecru
        April 30, 2013, 2:48 pm

        @ Elisabeth

        The term Israeli-Nazis isn’t just a cheap shot, it reflects a very real similarity between the philosophies of Zionism and Nazism that is evident to anyone who has even a passing familiarity with either.

        Blut-und-boden, lebensraum, uber/untermensch all have their partners in Zionism as does the Nazis “Aryan homeland” with the Zionists “Eretz Israel.” The Israelis have even got their own version of the Ahnenerbe.

        And whilst there are other ethno-nationalist movements in the world that also share commonalities with the underpinnings of Nazism (Hindu Nationalism in India, Uyoku Dentai in Japan, Aryan Nationalism in the USA) as they must all being cut from simialr cloth, only Zionism and neo-Nazism seem to share quite so much.

        Yes, Israel has not constructed Death Camps, but then until the 1940′s neither had Hitler. Hardly made him less of a Nazi in 1933.

      • Obsidian
        May 1, 2013, 12:18 am

        @Ecru

        You’ve put way too much thought into this.

      • miriam6
        April 30, 2013, 9:26 pm

        Elizabeth, I have tried in many posts now to convince the likes of Ecru and others to cut out the Zionism is Nazism sordid analogies.

        It doesn’t work.

        You can see from the utter insanity of and twisted illogic of Ecru’s reply to your comment that it’s a lost cause trying to get these bone-headed folks to grasp the simplest logic.

      • Denis
        April 30, 2013, 11:09 pm

        Elisabeth, the term Israeli-Nazi is not about “the most painful insult,” it is about encapsulating what these Israelis are doing in one concise term.

        It is about highlighting the painful irony of how the one-time victims of the Nazis are now busting into the homes of Palestinians in the middle of the night, destroying Palestinian property and livelihoods without reason or provocation, holding Palestinians without charge and sometimes incommunicado, randomly executing Palestinians in the name of the state as a way of terrorizing them — in short, the irony of how many of the activities of the Nazis that were prelude to the full-blown genocide are now being practiced by survivors of that genocide and their descendants.

        My intent is not to offend these offensive Israelis — I could not care less whether they are offended or not. My intent is to illustrate the irony.

        As for the accuracy/propriety of the epithet, I believe Ecru addresses that quite succinctly.

  2. Fritz
    April 28, 2013, 12:33 pm

    “the officer tried one more time, telling me that he was my friend, here to help me and that if I collaborated he might change his decision”

    Are information/testimonies available about pro-Palestinian activists who collaborate with Shabak? It would be astonishing if there are no spies and agent provocateurs within the group of the internationals in Palestine.

  3. amigo
    April 28, 2013, 12:57 pm

    [Gabi told me today on the phone that the authorities are making life harder and harder for lawyers and that they are being more difficult every day].

    Sounds like people who are losing and they know it.

    I hope they go home to their kit and kin and share the sordid details of what they do for the so called only democracy.

  4. Blank State
    April 28, 2013, 2:53 pm

    There is a column in the Sunday Los Angeles Times, Opinion Section, along these same lines today, written by an Amercan citizen with a Palestinian father and anglo american mother. It describes an angreement that that shameful witch Boxer has arranged with the Israelis. It makes it very simple and easy for an Israeli to breeze on into our country by visa, but does not hold Israel to the same standard when vetting American citizens wishing to visit Israel. The column is well written, and clearly logical in its dissent against such lopsided and biased policy agreements. It was somewhat gratifying to see the Times run the piece. I can only imagine the zio spore that the “letters to the editor” section will be soiled with tomorrow.

  5. Mndwss
    April 28, 2013, 3:39 pm

    “Write your email addresses, your mobile phone number, your house phone, the name of your father and the name of your grandfather on this piece of paper”

    Why only the father and grandfather? And not mother and grandmother?

    And why only one grandfather? People usually have 2.

    But not always:

    link to en.wikipedia.org

  6. Mike_Konrad
    April 28, 2013, 4:21 pm

    While I support Israel, I do not support such totalitarian intrustions:

    You did not handle the email stuff well.

    Next time be prepared.

    STARTING FOUR MONTHS BEFORE YOU LEAVE so you have hundreds of emails built up.

    1) Go to Craigslist and buy a cheap used laptop for about $100. This will be your throw-away laptop.

    2) NEVER USE THIS LAPTOP AT YOUR HOME or ON YOUR CABLE SYSTEM
    In fact, do not even bring it in your house, where it might be picked up by local Wi-Fi. Leave in your car, under a seat.

    3) Take the laptop to McDonalds and use their Wi-Fi

    4) Load up CCleaner. This is an excellent erasing program.

    5) Go to CCleaner’s Options, then settings and set it to 3 pass secure deletion.

    6) Do an initial cleaning at McDonalds while on their wi-fi.

    7) After that set up a Hotmail account and a gmail account. DO NOT use personal info. If they ask for a second email, get them the gmail or Hotmail email you plan to use. Do not give them a phone number, or they will try to call you. Do not give them a fake phone #; as they will call it, and hold up authorization until you dial back.

    8) Put as little personal information in the Hotmail account and gmail account as possible. Make sure they agree on birthday, and address, Mother’s name, etc. Obey the laws of your area when putting in the info. (If you are allowed to put in false info do so. If it is illegal to lie, then don’t lie. Use nicknames. for ex: If your mother’s name was Michelle, enter Sweetie, as that is what dad called her.

    9) Use the same name and password for both accounts. Makes it easier to remember and makes you look careless (WHICH IS WHAT THEY WANT!)

    10) After setting up the emails, subscribe to Zionist newletters. They will flood your accounts with pro-Zionist emails.

    11) Subscribe to one pro-Palestinian account and let them flood your emails as well. This way, it won’t be totally obvious.

    This is important: Go to some commercial site and ask for info on buying a couch. This will make it look like you are daily using the email for life purposes.

    Ask for a recipe from a commercial site.

    12) Set up a twitter account using the Hotmail or gmail as a reference. Use the twitter account to join some popular twitter accounts.

    13) Start tweeting neutral nonsense. Such as I bet the Holyland is nice this time of year.

    I can’t wait to meet some Palestinians.

    I love Tel Aviv. Palms trees and a beach.

    Ramallah is nice this time of year.

    I want to date a Jewish girl. I hear they are hot.

    I love hummus

    14) Now that you have an email account on both gmail and Hotmail, and a twitter account. Use them to send emails out.

    15) Using Gmail and Hotmail, set up accounts on Flickr, Photobucket, and Google Plus to store pic and files.

    NEVER EMAIL TO REAL FRIENDS YOU KNOW. Email Zionist and the occasional Palestinian site and ask to be put on their mailing list.

    NEVER USE THIS STUFF TO SEND OUT REAL TRACEABLE EMAILS.

    16) NEVER DO THIS FROM HOME! ONLY FROM McDONALDS or a Library with Wi-Fi. NEVER A PLACE YOU HAVE TO SIGN IN.

    17) Leave the throw-away computer in your car.

    18) When you go to Israel, if they ask your email, give them the Hotmail account first. Let them wade through three months of Zionist emails, plus the occasional Palestinian account.

    19) When they come back asking for your other email, give them the gmail account.

    20) When they come back again, give them the Twitter account with the neutal tweets.

    21) If they let you in, remember that they will somehow have installed a key logger on your puter.

    22) Up load your pics, files, and movies to the Google Plus

    23) When you get home … DO NOT BRING THE PUTER INSIDE

    24) Next day go to McDonalds, and download the pics, files, and video from Flickr, Google Plus and Photobucket – Download them to a flash drive only.

    25) Do a virus scan on the flash drive.

    26) Close out all your Google, Photobucket, Hotmail, gmail account.

    THIS WILL BE A LONG McDonalds stay.

    27) Run a total CCLEANER SCAN ON THE COMPUTER

    28) Defrag your laptop.

    29) Put it the laptop in your back seat

    30) NOW GO HOME WITH THE FLASH DRIVE.

    31) Plug it in, but scan it first.

    32) Then you can access your info.

    33) Donate the laptop to a church, or a charity, or a synagogue.
    Or toss it in the garbage.

    I am very pro-Israel, but I do not like New World Order snooping. This is how to defeat it.

    The key is NEVER USED THE THROW AWAY LAPTOP from your home or use it to send real emails.

    Since it is a throw away laptop, you do not have to change the mac #. That will only go back to the guy who sold it to you. If you want to, you can change the mac#; but it may not be necessary as the laptop is throwaway.

    You still may not get through customs, still; but at least you will have given them a good run.

    If they ask why you are going to Israel with an old computer tell them, you heard there are thieves in the Mideast, and you are especially concerned about data thieves.

    Leave it at that.

    Again. I am very pro-Israel, but the New World Order snoopin has to be thwarted.

    My suggestion is that one you are brought in for questioning, settle that you probably will not be allowed in.

    If you really want to be careful, and they do let you in, bring the reformat disk with you, and once you are through, reformat your drive. They probably installed a key logger.

    In fact, put a false label on the reformat disk. They are not stupid and would lose the reformat disk. Be smart, get a label maker and put a false label on the disk. Or make it look like a music CD. Hide it among real music CDs.

    NEVER USE THE TEMP LAPTOP TO MAKE REAL CONTACTS! Everyting on the temp laptop should be bogus, but look real.

    If you get in, and then email your friends, they will still have you.

    Pre-arrange with your friends that they also have temporary Hotmail accounts also. Email only to those temp accounts.

    Under no circumstance should your friend have your own temp account access. They can trace that.

    I actually like Israel.

    I just hate snooping at that level.

    You probably will not get in; but it will give them a run for the money.

    If they ask what your other emails are. Tell them. You can’t remember. You have been using these emails for the last three months.

    • AlGhorear
      April 30, 2013, 8:31 pm

      So Mike_Konrad, you like Israel or you really really like Israel but not the big brother snooping. Does that mean you support occupation, ethnic cleansing, racial/ethnic supremacy, apartheid laws, torture, imprisonment without trial, land theft etc.etc., but that snooping thing is a big no-no?

    • piotr
      May 1, 2013, 1:15 am

      Konrad, what you have described is totally pointless. The procedure of granting or denying admission is totally arbitrary and the agents were either simply harassing Frank or fishing for intelligence. In the latter case they already had a dossier on Frank and knew roughly who would be in the e-mail contact with him, so no artificial smokescreen would help.

      The only question is if USA and other countries agree with such treatment of their citizens or not. Pressing citizens into cooperation with foreign intelligence is not something that we should be oblivious too and a reciprocal treatment should be applied to members of Israeli elite who travel in the opposite direction.

  7. a blah chick
    April 28, 2013, 4:54 pm

    -“You lied to me. So you won’t get in. You will now be deported back.” (Still, right after telling me this, the officer tried one more time, telling me that he was my friend, here to help me and that if I collaborated he might change his decision)-

    It’s good cop/bad cop! The oldest trick in the book. They definitely watch too much American TV. The Savak needs better writers for their material.

  8. douglasreed
    April 28, 2013, 6:16 pm

    Shades of the South African police during the odious apartheid regime. Why would anyone want to visit a totalitarian state that makes such a mockery of its claims to democracy?

    • RoHa
      April 28, 2013, 8:33 pm

      “Why would anyone want to visit a totalitarian state that makes such a mockery of its claims to democracy?”

      Can’t imagine. I certainly wouldn’t want to.

      But Mr. Barat’s problem is that he has to, and it seems the only way he can is to go through the interrogation and imprisionment, and then find out he can’t anyway.

    • Kathleen
      April 28, 2013, 11:50 pm

      the “shades” covering up the apartheid state of Israel are being slowly but surely opened up for the world to see.

    • chocopie
      April 30, 2013, 2:51 am

      Even if someone only wants to go to the West Bank, they still have to go through the Israeli questioning. Even those who fly to Jordan and cross over by land to the West Bank, bypassing Israel entirely, are questioned by Israeli military and get their passports stamped by Israel.

  9. Basilio
    April 28, 2013, 10:35 pm

    I try not to write anything about Israel in e-mails and generally try to avoid posting things on facebook related to Israel or delete them. I haven’t visited Palestine/Israel in a long time, and I may go there, and I don’t really want to give anyone an excuse to stop me from visiting relatives.

  10. ToivoS
    April 29, 2013, 2:09 am

    These Israeli policies to keep out those who do not support the Zionist enterprise is perfectly understandable. Therefore, those who want to enter Israel and visit the Palestinians will have to revert to subterfuge. Indeed, the birthright trips provide the perfect avenue. What it means is that veterans like Frank Barat will be excluded. But it does open upon up the opportunity to send in young Jews who sympathize with Palestinian rights. This should be considered a positive opportunity in the sense that young recruits can gain experience.

    In fact, we know that the birthright tours are already being used for this purpose. Shabak, you better wake up — do not trust all of those bright eyed and bushy tailed proto-Zionists from Europe and the US that you eagerly welcome. There is without doubt many that harbor views sympathetic to Palestinian rights. You guys should watch those birthright tourists much more carefully; they are after all potential subversives.

  11. Djinn
    April 29, 2013, 4:52 am

    Steps for entering Palestine. Deactivate any and all social media accounts. Set up a hotmail account completely unconnected from any other email (get some friends to email a few random things to it so it’s not suspiciously empty). Have your cover story well thought out (don’t say you’re really into history and that’s why you’ve come to Israel and then not be able to name any specific site). If possible have some Israeli friends (non politically active) willing to say you will be staying with them. Not much you can do about google but luckily for me, for both Arabic and Hebrew speakers the connection between the name on my passport and the one I use is less obvious. Arriving via the Allenby Bridge is a slightly better bet than flying into TA and if you have to fly, don’t travel with El Al.

    They only have to stop a few people before the investment of a few thousand dollars for airfares (depending on where you live) only to be deported on arrival starts to be prohibitive for most folk. I’ll admit it’s put me off, my next trip will be to Gaza only via Egypt to avoid it.

    If your passport and online footprint is clean you should go now before the Israeli government starts making it even harder.

  12. douglasreed
    April 29, 2013, 8:42 am

    When will Israel face a TRUTH & RECONCILIATION Commission as implemented in South Africa to examine those police and military who perpetrated killings and torture during apartheid.

    Obviously, it is too late now to examine the perpetrators of the King David Hotel bombing that killed 91 or those massacred at Deir Yassin prior to 1948.
    The Igun Zvai Leumi and the Stern Gang terrorists are long since gone. But those responsible for the deaths of over 300 under sixteen year old children in Gaza, in 2008, as reported by the UN, are still living free and openly.

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