Yesterday, despite an invitation from the Palestinian Authority and the Bethlehem mayor, and a special request to the French Foreign Ministry, more than a hundred internationals were denied entry into the West Bank via Jordan. “They did not even let us get off the bus,” said French organizer Olivia Zemor, who intended to visit school children on a nine-day trip with a European human rights group.
At 7:30 pm on August 26, Israeli officials, controlling all access to the Palestinian Territories, said the border crossing was a “a closed military zone” and refused to allow the official guests of the civil administration to enter. Zemor said:
‘They collected our passports and a few minutes later returned them with each and every passport stamped ‘Entry denied’. The soldiers refused to give any explanation, they just said – that’s it, your entry is denied, go back to Jordan.’
Organizers from Zemor’s group, Bienvenue Palestine, or Welcome to Palestine, are familiar with Israel’s de facto “no entry to the West Bank unless you’re a settler” policy. Earlier this year during the “flytilla,” activists were promptly deported after landing and announcing to passport security their intent to visit Bethlehem. As well, in Europe, participants expecting to board planes to the Middle East were kept from the Palestinian territories vis-à-vis coordination between Israeli officials and aviation companies. Three flights were outright cancelled before take-off and Lufthansa Airlines, Brussels Airlines and EasyJet all “blacklisted” a number of passengers based on “Israel’s orders,” according to a letter airline officials sent to passengers.
Despite last spring’s debacle Bienvenue Palestine was not deterred from seeking to enter the West Bank. Heeding the advice of border officials who advised entering through Jordan by land, and not the Tel Aviv airport, Zemor’s group tried again. “So we did try to get through the Jordan bridges, and now we got a definite answer from the government of Israel,” she said.
The activists’ deportation comes on the heels of a government envoy banned from entering the West Bank for meetings with the Palestinian leadership earlier this month, and the well-publicized deportation of two Palestinian-American tourists whose privacy was violated by airport security. In June of this year Najwa Doughman and Sasha Al-Sarabi were sent back to their homes in New York City from Ben Gurion airport after guards searched through their email accounts to verify that the two were of Arab descent.
The cases confirm racist and invasive practices are at the core of Israel’s airport security apparatus. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that when Israeli security procedures were exported to Boston in 2011, the flagship “behavior profiling” program was criticized one year later as “rife” with “racial profiling.” Alex Kane reported, the victims of New Age Security Solution’s excessive interrogations sparked calls for a congressional hearing over charges of discrimination.
h/t Sid Shniad.