The Harvard Law Record reports on another disturbing deportation by Israel of an American after she landed at Ben-Gurion airport. Harvard Law student Hebah Ismail, an American of Egyptian descent, wears a hijab and was planning to do research on land disputes involving Bedouin citizens of Israel, along with another instructor and student at Harvard Law School. At Ben Gurion she was stopped and questioned, maybe because of the hijab. Ultimately an officer took her aside:
“But basically he told me, ‘Before we get started, we want you to know that this is a democratic country, and we respect other points of view. But we found things on your external hard drive that are very concerning.’ He was sure I had some other objective, but I had no idea what that could be.”
Hebah tried to assure the security officer that her trip related only to the clinical project and a personal desire to visit Jerusalem. But he remained convinced that an article on her computer describing modern Israeli as being on land previously held by Palestinians pointed to a more insidious motivation and began pressuring Ismail to allow him to read her emails.
“He told me, ‘I cannot let you through until I know I can go home and get a good night’s sleep,’” Ismail said. “He kept saying, ‘If you let me go through your email, I’ll let you in.”
Having been counselled by [instructor Ahmad] Amara prior to the trip that the security forces had no right to demand access to her emails, Ismail denied his request. Almost eight hours after landing, Ismail’s passport progressed from border control to immigration, who would proceed to ask the same set of questions. Only later would be learn that security had finally granted her entry and immigration ultimately denied her. Again, the demands centered upon her emails, but now the consequences escalated.
“They told me that if I didn’t let them read my emails, not only would I not be allowed into Israel, I would be banned for life.”
Having stood by her initial refusal regarding the personal mail, Ismail cannot ever travel to Israel.
“I always wanted to go to Jerusalem. And this was finally my chance. But I won’t be trying to go back.”