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U.S. scholar backs out of Israel trip after consulate assigns her ‘subordinate’ status due to birth in Pakistan

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Kavita Khoury
Professor Kavita Khory

More evidence if any were needed of the racially-discriminatory policies of Israeli border authorities. Last spring, Kavita Khory, a Professor of Political Science at Mount Holyoke College, signed up for a one-week, all expenses paid tour of Israel for scholars of international relations aimed at providing a “deeper understanding” of the politics of the area. The trip of a dozen scholars was sponsored by Combined Jewish Philanthropies.

Well Khory got a deeper understanding. She didn’t end up going because of the way Israel treated her prospectively, on account of her having been born in Pakistan. And Congress is thinking of extending no-visa privileges to Israelis seeking to come to the U.S.?

From Khory’s account, at Duck of Minerva.

A week before our departure, the CJP informed me that I (the only member of the group and a US citizen) would need to carry a separate identification document at all times—a “card” certifying that I had been “prescreened” by the Israeli Consulate in Boston.  While “technically traveling with a U.S. passport is sufficient in Israel,” additional documentation, I was told, would ensure a “smooth” trip.

As I began reading the consular official’s questions, I realized that the only issue was my place of birth—Pakistan.  Because of the circumstances of my birth, over which I had no control, I was being singled out for “special” treatment that did not in any way make me feel confident about my own safety and security while traveling in Israel.

The assumption that individuals with any connection to Pakistan would immediately be seen as a potential threat is infuriating.  Equally if not more troubling, the Israeli government, as I discovered, employs a two-tier system to screen U.S. citizens.

I no longer felt I was part of a group of my peers, having already been assigned a different—and subordinate—status without any regard for my professional accomplishments, which I assumed was the reason I was invited in the first place.

I couldn’t choose my place of birth, but I could choose not to acquiesce to the Israeli government’s discriminatory practices toward U.S. citizens.  So after mulling it over for a day or so, I decided against traveling to Israel and declined the CJP’s invitation…

What is our professional responsibility when colleagues are treated differently because of national or ethnic origin?  How should we respond when faced with such examples of exclusion and discrimination?

P.S. Khory clarified a point implicit in her original post, in correspondence with me:

I was the only member of a group of 12 faculty asked to fill out the additional paperwork and carry another ID along with my passport.  I think if I had known about this earlier in the process, I would have simply declined the invitation.  As I said in the piece, it was a personal decision not to go.  Others might have reacted differently.  Another colleague who went on the trip this year, had a good experience, so I would not discourage anyone from going in the future. 

Philip Weiss

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29 Responses

  1. lysias on July 24, 2013, 4:10 pm

    Has this been covered in the Chronicle of Higher Education? If it has not, it should be.

  2. Justpassingby on July 24, 2013, 6:26 pm

    So she must wearing a an indentification because of the possible threat she may be?
    Why not a yellow sign stiched to her clothes?
    How can Israeli gov. say they are persecuted while they use racist tactics?!

  3. just on July 24, 2013, 7:59 pm

    What a lousy undemocratic, cretinous country. And our Government supports them without condition or reservation.

    There you have it– Israel is morally bankrupt and stupid beyond belief. The only “special status” it deserves from us is contempt for its Apartheid/racist practices.

  4. Obsidian on July 25, 2013, 9:40 am

    Jew deported by UK customs for visiting Israel.

    • annie on July 25, 2013, 12:00 pm

      that news coverage is really amazing especially considering how routine it is for arab americans to go thru what sounds like very similar experiences getting into israel. can you point to any msm tv coverage that is comparable wrt our arab american citizens? and why might this be, that one jewish american citizen not getting into the UK would warrant a tv story about anti semitism.

      also, if this was routine wrt the UK the way it is with israel i would be concerned. but since it isn’t and the israel has a history of the mossad using UK passports to commit assassination cantor’s situation might be isolated..he might have either a name or profiling of one of the mossad agents the UK is on the look out for. if there’s no pattern it’s not a story.

      • Pamela Olson on July 25, 2013, 2:13 pm

        So, we have millions of cases, he gives us one counter-case (that’s not really relevant — some jerk in the UK who did one thing has nothing to do with Palestinians or the Israeli government’s policies), and acts like he’s made a point?

      • Obsidian on July 25, 2013, 4:15 pm

        Millions of cases?



      • Pamela Olson on July 27, 2013, 6:35 pm

        Yes. There are millions of refugees alone who have never been allowed even to visit their homeland due to Israel’s racist, illegal policies. Another million and a half Palestinian-Israelis are discriminated against daily simply because of their religion/ethnicity, which doesn’t fit the “Jewish state’s” ideal. And should I even get started on the vagaries of life for the 4 million Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza, most of whom are not allowed to visit their holy sites freely (while Jewish Israelis and settlers are bused wherever the hell they wish in bulletproof buses with full army/police escorts), none of whom are allowed to travel freely, and I would venture to guess millions of whom have faced horrific harassment/humiliation/denial of passage simply because of their religion/ethnicity, not because they’ve ever committed any crime in their life.

        So, yes. Millions.

    • Eva Smagacz on July 25, 2013, 1:26 pm

      Sorry Obsidian, but it is much more likely that he did not have a work visa, and these are difficult to obtain. Now, if the story said he did have a work visa for summer vocation ( not that I heard of them) then I would be a bit more suspicious of the UK Border Agency motives ( but I still would not place Anti-Semitism in the first 10 reasons why they would choose to deport him)

    • DaveS on July 25, 2013, 5:14 pm

      Obsidian, do you really believe that you have all the information in this story, that nothing was left out? This guy claims that he was denied entry to the UK, and denied future entry to any EU country, because he was Jewish and had visited Israel. Doesn’t that strike you as absurd?

      • Obsidian on July 26, 2013, 1:20 am


        ” Doesn’t that strike you as absurd?”

        I don’t know what happened to this young man or why, but somehow, I doubt he’ll find much sympathy from Mondoweiss.

    • just on July 25, 2013, 5:30 pm

      Wow, you ARE gullible.

    • eGuard on July 26, 2013, 5:20 am

      Obsidian: Jew deported by UK customs for visiting Israel.

      No. The reason was not mentioned, as the Jew himself says.

      The reasons being “anti-Semitism” and “because I have visited Israel” was his own creation.

  5. Chu on July 25, 2013, 9:40 am

    That’s rotten to the core… And Jews are always prattling on about multi-culturalism
    and inclusion. I guess that doesn’t apply when the motherland of Israel part of the calculus.

    • tokyobk on July 25, 2013, 5:41 pm

      It always amazes me how a site that has the goal of doing to islamophobia what was done to antisemitism in the 20th century, making it socially unacceptable, has a comment section that smells exactly like Jihad Watch, where Muslim entirety is defined by whatever nasty trait needed.

      Which Jews are “prattling on about multiculturalism”? (the answer is Jews who prattle on about Multiculturalism) And which Jews consider Israel the Motherland? (the answer would be Zionists which even if a majority is not the same Jew) Is it the same Jews, or do all the Jews have one essence, just different faces and regrettably different necks?

      • just on July 25, 2013, 6:20 pm


      • Cliff on July 25, 2013, 6:50 pm


        You’re right. However, this is the comments section and Phil and co. allow comments from both sides through. Not every comment is squeaky clean.

        It’s really unfair to use a comment you disagree with to characterize the alleged modus operandi of the website.

      • just on July 25, 2013, 7:29 pm

        And another thing, I do think that though the site does want to do to Islamophobia what was done to antisemitism in the 20th c., perhaps you might want to recall this:

        “About Mondoweiss
        Mondoweiss is a news website devoted to covering American foreign policy in the Middle East, chiefly from a progressive Jewish perspective.

        It has four principal aims:

        To publish important developments touching on Israel/Palestine, the American Jewish community and the shifting debate over US foreign policy in a timely fashion.
        To publish a diversity of voices to promote dialogue on these important issues.
        To foster the movement for greater fairness and justice for Palestinians in American foreign policy.
        To offer alternatives to pro-Zionist ideology as a basis for American Jewish identity.”

        Thanks for your attention.

        (PS– Islamophobia is capitalized. It’s a form of respect for the religion)

      • Chu on July 26, 2013, 9:20 am

        What Israel does to the professor is sloppy racism. They invite her to the party, but find out what her background is, and proceed to label her as untrustworthy. It’s like a white man’s party in the 1950’s where one group invites a another big group to their event, but later they find out someone has a black mother. So they ask them to wear a yellow band around their wrist during the event, just in case. Doesn’t seem fair…
        The multiculturalism was something in the US that Jews have promoted for many decades and still do – this site discusses it at length (more so in the past now). But when we look to the Jewish state, in its function and daily operations- it’s a really dark realm. Something that the diaspora has to accept, is the damage that the state [motherland!] is doing to themselves and the west. Everyone is affected by their actions.

  6. DaveS on July 25, 2013, 5:24 pm

    Giving Israel the benefit of the doubt, their defense presumably would be that the special papers were for her benefit, so that she could produce them and show that she had been pre-screened for some sort of security clearance. But that would be an indictment of the entire society. In other words, Israeli officials were afraid that if this woman were allowed entry into Israel without the documents, she would be hassled and detained etc. by virtue of her country of origin. Imagine if Israelis were subject to such extra scrutiny in any other country. I can hear the howls of Abe Foxman.

    • tree on July 25, 2013, 5:33 pm

      Yes, exactly. The extra documents were an admission that they racially profile visitors to Israel.

  7. hophmi on July 25, 2013, 5:56 pm

    The United States allows most travelers from Europe to visit the United States without a visa. Pakistanis, on the other hand, must apply for a visa at least three months in advance, provide a travel history for the past 10 years, and give the names of their siblings and children.

    • Djinn on July 25, 2013, 10:33 pm

      The US does not put special conditions on European citizens merely because they were born in Pakistan. This woman is a US citizen, same as everyone else in the group.

      I saw this myself when traveling to Gaza with a group, we were all Australian citizens and the three who were refused entry at the last second all just happened to have Arab names. I’m sure it was pure coincidence huh?

    • eGuard on July 26, 2013, 5:30 am

      Pakistani? Europe? You forgot to introduce Donald Duck, who is more related to the topic.

    • Chu on July 26, 2013, 9:28 am

      And that’s your defense of Israel? Blame the United States! Man a you’re desperate one.

      • hophmi on July 26, 2013, 2:18 pm

        “And that’s your defense of Israel?”

        No Chu, it’s my debunking of the myth that Israel is somehow unusual because it looks at the national origins of those who pass through the airport.

      • Djinn on July 27, 2013, 5:24 am

        And you did so as you always do, by comparing apples & oranges. Other nations would have treated her exactly the same as they treated any other US citizen. That she was born in Pakistan would have been irrelevant.

      • hophmi on July 28, 2013, 9:04 pm

        Really, Djinn. And your proof of this is what?

  8. Nevada Ned on July 25, 2013, 6:48 pm

    Khory (or Khoury) is Arabic for “priest”, someone told me once. Perhaps the Israeli authorities suspected that she was a Christian, or a Moslem, or (gasp!) an Arab. Maybe the additional “security” paperwork was because they planned to send her through some of Israel’s 400 checkpoints.

    Israel doesn’t usually treat Jews this way, but in 2008 they denied entry to Norman Finkelstein, who was trying to get to the occupied Palestinian territories, and in 2010 Israel denied entry to Noam Chomsky, who was trying to reach a university on the West Bank.

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