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‘Nobody knew where I was, nobody… I was simply disappeared’: An Italian tourist’s Ben Gurion nightmare

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My name is Andrea Pesce, I am 44 years old and I’m an Italian citizen.

For 15 years I had the chance to visit Israel and Palestine, thanks to my former job (I used to be a travel agent) and also because I’m interested in the political situation over there. I travelled as a normal person, without any official role or mission.

Last December I have been in Israel and Palestine for one week. I always stayed in a hotel in the Old city of Jerusalem and I went for one day visit to Bethlehem (twice), Ramallah and Nablus, always as a tourist. During my visit in Bethlehem I had the chance to learn about a non-profit organization, named Tent of Nations, which follows a non-violent approach to the conflict.

Between January and February I contacted Tent of Nations staff, and planned a visit in March to volunteer over there. Then I bought an El Al air ticket, from Venice to Tel Aviv and back, departure 18th March, return 16th April.

This is the background to my story and I want to say also that I have never participated in any event, manifestation or whatever against Israel, or have written something or declared something against Israel. On the contrary, in 1999 I wrote a book issued by a Italian publisher, specialized in Jewish Literature and subjects, (Casa editrice La Giuntina) with an afterword by Amos Luzzatto, who at that time was President of the Union of Italian Jewish Communities.

Last 18th March, my day of departure, I arrived at Venice airport at 11 am, 3 hours before scheduled take off. For this kind of flight, there is an Israeli security staff interviewing passengers, according to an agreement between the Italian and Israeli governments. I waited around one hour, as Israeli staff are always allowed to pass Israeli passengers before me and other Italians waiting. Then one woman interviewed me, quite softly, but with some incredible questions like:

“You are going to stay one month away from home, isn’t your daughter sad because of this?”

There is no security reason behind this kind of question, not even to check if you get nervous because you have something to hide: it’s pure harassment, nothing more, nothing less.

I asked, “Why are you asking questions like this ? It’s too personal!”

She seemed to understand, and started to apologize.

Then I was told that my backpack had to be searched and that I cannot bring my camera (old fashioned) with me, it had to go in the hold. They checked everything, which included doing a body search on me.

Eventually they told me that maybe my baggage cannot arrive with me in Tel Aviv on the same flight: I complained a lot, saying that I had been waiting for two hours and I couldn’t understand why they waited so long. At the end they let me leave, I have to say, including my backpack.

During the flight I was tired but also happy: eventually everything was ok, and I was on the way to start my holiday and a wonderful life experience for one month in Israel and Palestine.

I couldn’t imagine what was waiting for me at Ben Gurion Airport.

Once I arrived, at passport control, I was told to wait in a corner of the hall, beside the “passport control office”. Several people were there already. I waited around one hour and then I had the first dialogue. It focused on what I was going to do during this month, I said “nothing special, I will go around”, ok, then wait again other half an hour, and then a second person interviewed me about my job, and what I was going to do it in Israel for one month, and I repeated the same answers again.

Then wait again around half an hour, and then the third interview with other people asking same questions, but in harder way, intimidating me and trying to scare me.

They argued that I was a liar because I didn’t say that somebody was waiting for me in Bethlehem, and that those who lie at the border will be not allowed to enter the country.

At that point I had been traveling for almost twelve hours, I was confused, tired and a little bit scared. But I had nothing to hide and I said, “check whatever you want, I’m a normal person, do what you have to do”. At that point it was pretty clear to me that they had read my emails and knew everything in advance.

Finally around 11.30 pm, I was interviewed by other people (they said they were from the Ministry of Internal Affairs) and after some minutes they told me that my entry was denied because I was a liar: I started to cry, more because of the stress itself, than for the final decision to reject me, even though it has been hard to me to accept the “destruction” of my travel, planned for months.

Andrea Pesci holding his passport with the Israeli "denied entry" stamp.

Andrea Pesci holding his passport with the Israeli “denied entry” stamp.

They started to laugh a little bit, saying that if only I said at the beginning I was going to volunteer they would let me in without any problem. But since I lied about it, I have to be rejected.

Until now, it was hard but not terrifying. But I  still couldn’t expect what I was in for.

Around 1 am they brought me in another airport room where my baggage has been searched again and I had a second body search. Then they took away my backpack, empty, because they said that it was detained for security reason. They gave me a big plastic bag to put all my belongings in.

Funny detail: the bag has a broken zipper.

They brought me back to the same hall, where I was told to not go around. I had to stay near their office.

Please note that I could only drink some water because another tourist gave me some coins to buy a bottle water from a machine. And security staff gave me a sandwich only because I asked for it. In the meantime every request I made — to have some water or to make a phone call to my embassy or simply to alert my hotel in Jerusalem that I couldn’t go there — was refused. And refused is not the right word: I was not a normal person anymore, I started already to be seen like a second class person. I want to say that for the very first time I really felt what racism is.

As they decided to send me back to Italy, the problem was how and when: flights to and from Venice are only once per week. So I was told that I was going to stay in a separate facility, waiting for the flight back to Italy.

This is the beginning of the nightmare.

The separate facility is a “migration facility”, as they call it, which is actually a sort of prison. Around five minutes by car outside of Ben Gurion Airport, I was transferred to this “house” surrounded by iron net, with bars on windows. I was told to leave everything in a room, including my mobile. Strange, but I definitely realised I was under arrest when I was told I could not bring a ballpoint pen with me to my “room”. But actually it was not a room, it was a jail. So around 3 am on the 19th March started my new life experience: being detained in a prison.

I cannot express my feelings exactly: maybe I can say that, having fallen deeply into a total irrational system, the only way to avoid becoming crazy, was to start to think in a completely different way. But it wasn’t easy.

The jail has soundproof doors, so you cannot ask for anything, not even scream. You can only beat the door until somebody, maybe, is willing to listen to you. But you already feel completely unsafe and you are scared even to ask, because you know that they can do everything with you, about you. I cannot say what I thought and felt during that night.

By 7:00 am I was destroyed, I was imploring them to send me home. One man, never seen before just opened the door and screamed to me: “so you go tonight at 06.30 pm, okay or not ?!” I said “Okay, okay, please let me go, I didn’t do anything, I don’t even know why I’m here”. They say “Okay, you will go tonight”.

At that stage nobody knew where I was, nobody. I was simply disappeared.

At 9:00 am I was allowed to call the Italian embassy: an Italian official told me “once you are in that place we cannot do anything, you simply don’t exist for us if you are in that place”. She also expressed sympathy for what I was going through, but the fact I was leaving in the afternoon was decisive. She also called my wife in Italy, as I was not allowed to do it directly.

Then the wait for departure started: I was in another jail, alone, with the door open. But I couldn’t go out, and it’s hard to explain, but I was afraid to ask anything. When around noon they gave me some food (to consume it in the room, without any table, only sitting on the bed) I did ask for some water, they said “We will bring it to you.” They didn’t and I didn’t ask again.

All and all, during my 14 hours in the “migration facility” I had the chance to stay outside in the open courtyard for a total of around 40-45 minutes (in two visits during the morning, none in the afternoon).

Again: I cannot explain my feelings during the time between 4:30 pm and 5:30 pm, knowing that my flight was scheduled for 6:20 pm. I was scared to death that they wouldn’t let me go….

From Andrea Pesci's passport.

From Andrea Pesci’s passport.

It the end, at 5:35 pm they did open the door, let me take my belongings (always in their plastic bag), transferred me to the airplane and let me go. My passport was delivered to me by an Italian officer at Milan airport, after it was handled to him by the El Al staff.

I won’t share anything about the fact that being flown to Milan cost me more fatigue, finding a hotel that night and then catching a train to Venice the next day (20th March).

Nobody, never, in those 24 hours, declared their identity or role to me (they all have a badge, but it’s not easy to read and you don’t’ have the courage to show that you want to know their name). In the end there is no written proof of what they did to me, not even the reason for my rejection and detention. Nothing, nothing at all. I only have a stamp on my passport saying “entry denied”.

The lessons for me at this moment are two questions:

  1. Why do you want me to hate you ?!
  2. If you can do this to me, what you can do to the Palestinians ?!
Andrea Pesce

Andrea Pesci was born in 1969, in Conegliano Veneto near Venice, Italy. After a degree in ancient literature from the University of Venice. In 1999, after a journey to Palestine and Israel, he wrote text for a picture book, title Abraham's Children, on the Palestinian/Israeli conflict. Since 2001 he has been the director of Stella Maris' Friends, a seafarers welfare association taking care of seafarers, people working on the ships calling in Venice Port. He believes in nonviolence and in dialogue. He wants to visit Palestine and Israel again.

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65 Responses

  1. just on March 22, 2014, 8:44 am

    “At that stage nobody knew where I was, nobody. I was simply disappeared.

    “an Italian official told me “once you are in that place we cannot do anything, you simply don’t exist for us if you are in that place””

    Every citizen from any country needs to know this horrible truth– the truth that every indigenous Palestinian does experience every moment of their life.

    That “place” is hell on earth. I am watching “Catch a Fire” just now– the similarities are stunning.

    Man thanks, Andrea Pesce.

    • on March 22, 2014, 1:54 pm

      “that place” is israel, slavemaster of america!
      yes indeed, every citizen from not any country, but “every ‘ country needs to know this. perfect piece for a 60 minutes but will they have the courage and guts to do it worrying about another dressing down by the ambassador?
      this would make even george orwell tremble, this “once you are in that place…”. imagine just a little detainee room.
      mr pesce, as a fellow human being in this world i deplore you to continue telling this story as loud as you can to get this message out to everyone so this cancerous excuse of a country can be seen for what it truly is!

  2. adele on March 22, 2014, 10:11 am

    your story is a nightmare, and I am glad you are safe now and outraged enough to write your story. You were harassed, detained and jailed w/out any rights because Israel views peaceful, law-abiding internationals who make contact with their prisoners (i.e., Palestinians) behind the walls and electrified separation fences to be a “threat”. The fact that your embassy could not help you because “…you simply don’t exist for us if you are in that place” reinforces even more why the international community increasingly puts economic/diplomatic pressure on Israel.

    Just yesterday I commented in reply to Hophmi (he who enjoys all of Israel’s privileges thanks to his religion) that the harassment experienced at Ben Gurion is not limited to Palestinans/Arabs/Muslims only. Many, many, many International travelers have experienced Israel’s draconian security tactics and have been “disappeared”, Andrea’s apt description for what happened to him at Ben Gurion airport. Thankfully, more and more are speaking out about their experiences and documenting it.

    I googled Tent of Nations, Andrea’s destination in the West Bank but couldn’t access the website, although the google listing for it did show this:

    Tent of Nations – People Building Bridges‎

    I was able to find a description of “Tent of Nations” at the website for “Friends of Tent of Nation”:

    Daoud Nassar is a Palestinian farmer living and working in the fertile hill country south of Bethlehem. The Nassar’s farm, in the family for four generations, is ringed by Jewish settlements and the encroaching Separation Wall. The family has been offered millions for the land, but they remain steadfast. “This land is our mother,” says Daoud. “Our mother is not for sale.” Under his leadership, the family has taken the case to establish the family’s land rights to the Israeli Supreme Court. To demonstrate their commitment to peace and coexistence, the Nassar family has established “The Tent of Nations” providing arts, drama, and education to the children of the villages and refugee camps of the region. In addition, Daoud and his family have also established a Women’s Educational Center offering classes in computer literacy, English, and leadership training.

  3. American on March 22, 2014, 11:20 am

    ‘“an Italian official told me “once you are in that place we cannot do anything, you simply don’t exist for us if you are in that place””’

    Psycho country, psycho people.
    What else can be said?

  4. NK on March 22, 2014, 11:32 am

    Sorry for your ordeal. It sounds like the decision was made before you ever boarded the plane that you would be deprived of your liberty upon landing; in effect, this was a premeditated kidnapping. Governments could pursue these cases diplomatically but they’re content to let their citizens be subjected to such abuse, probably out of a desire to deflect attention from their own practices. Although Israeli officialdom has its own peculiar ugliness, this case also reflects the wider problem of normalized lawlessness in states’ border control practices.

    • Erasmus on March 23, 2014, 10:09 am

      A formidable scandal it is : the alleged Powerlessness of foreign Embassies in Israel
      At 9:00 am I was allowed to call the Italian embassy: an Italian official told me “once you are in that place we cannot do anything, you simply don’t exist for us if you are in that place” .

      Re NK ….Governments could pursue these cases diplomatically but they’re content to let their citizens be subjected to such abuse ….
      Foreign travellers to Israel who are so badly mistreated by Immigration officials of the GoI Home Ministry are virtually left alone by their Embassies in such a situation. Their “argument”, that they could not do anything for their nationals is nothing less than an unspeakable SCANDAL.
      It goes without saying that it is a blatant LIE. Of course they can do something. The Scandal is that foreign embassies do not even complain and do not forcefully intervene and follow-up with the Government of Israel, iow foreign embassies are effectively complicit with such airport immigration practices and permit them to be continued with impunity.
      I would assume that upon return to Italy Andrea Pesci – or any other traveller having experienced a similar mistreatment at the hands of Ben Gurion immigration staff and have not been given any assistance by their respective embassies – should file a legal case at home against their own Government / Foreign Ministry on grounds of INACTIVITY and NEGLECT of DUTY.
      Such legal proceedings may well raise (with the help of local media) general awareness and put their Governments to shame……. and perhaps also change their shameful complicity with the Government of Israel by being silent and inactive in the face of such BG airport-“welcoming ceremonies” to their nationals. Perhaps. Perhaps not.
      Ceterum censeo:
      if only all Christian Pilgrims to the unHoly Land would BOYCOTT Israel and postpone their pilgrimages until such time that a final and just peace agreement with the Palestinians will have been reached – that will surely stand a better chance and prove to be more efficient to induce a substantive change and end similar experiences like the one made by Andrea Pesci and many others.

      • The JillyBeans on March 24, 2014, 2:47 am

        My understanding is that Israeli’s provide quite a bit of tourism to Italy for weddings, as they skirt Israeli requirements. So the Italians may be trying to protect some tourism revenue, perhaps?

  5. justicewillprevail on March 22, 2014, 11:46 am

    Every time i see the photo above, it makes me shudder. Could they have devised a more sinister and dystopian entrance to Israel, with the legend ‘Welcome to Israel’ as the most unwelcoming, threatening admonition possible. What looks like a prison wall, a military base where you enter at your own risk. I think we get the message.
    All of it amply borne out by Andrea’s Kafka-esque experience. Obviously, like the NSA, Israel’s secret police vet all passengers, access their email and computer traffic. So they knew in Venice his intention to volunteer. But in the Kafka world that is Israel, to admit to this innocuous activity is to risk detention and denial of entry. So you are forced to lie, or at least evade questions. So they allow on to the flight, in the full knowledge that they are going to deny you entry, which would also have been denied had you simply told them of your plans. The only reason for this behaviour is to humiliate you, exercising their ‘god-given’ unaccountable powers, and take great pleasure in imprisoning you and sending you back. Truly, a sadistic society, whose smug representatives who enjoy their little exercises in humiliation and ignorance of basic civil rights. What fun they have with people who aren’t fully paid subscribers to the cult of zionism.
    Just scratch out that Israel on the wall, and write Welcome to State 101.

  6. LeaNder on March 22, 2014, 12:59 pm

    Crazy, really Kafkaesk.

    So the rule is, so you are damned if you tell them and you are damned if you don’t.

  7. NormanF on March 22, 2014, 1:41 pm

    Every country has the right to control its borders and to refuse entry to any one without having to give a reason.

    Andrea Pesce lied to border control officers at Ben Gurion. By withholding the truth from them about his travel plans in Israel. A lie by omission is still a lie.

    We’ll probably never know the real reason he was deported from Israel but Israel was fully within its rights as a sovereign country to deny him entry.

    • annie on March 22, 2014, 6:27 pm

      Every country has the right to control its borders…Israel was fully within its rights as a sovereign country to deny him entry.

      israel doesn’t have borders and it holds the key to palestine, which israel does not have sovereignty. locks people out and determines who can and cannot visit palestinians. however you may choose to justify this, people understand it as fundamentally unfair and cruel.

      • DaBakr on March 22, 2014, 6:53 pm

        whats wrong with Jordan or Egypt for those who want to visit Gaza? 100s of European travelers fly to Jordan and can apply for a visa to visit Palestinian towns. And your wildly imaginative statement that “Israel doesn’t have borders…” is curious at best and completely ignorant at worst. As a supposed ‘journalist’ I could just as easily say Annie Robbins has no standards of honesty or integrity when it comes to Israel and to many people, it would be just like a true remark.

        I would be interested to know in what parallel universe you live where Israel does not “have borders” and does not have “sovereignty” over thoise traveling into its airport to traverse its land and cross into territory that has yet to be determined in negotiations. in this universe I suppose Israel just ‘does the right thing’ and throws up it arms and says, “here, you Palestinians take sovereignty over all this disputed land. we no longer care if you sign a peace treaty and put an end to this conflict for once and for all. we just want to cede geographical and political sovereignty because a few europeans are upset with our security system. Not like we ever had any reason for such severe security measures, no, we just enjoy harassing anyone and everyone we can.

        Oh-I forgot to get out my one inch violin for the poor author who arrogantly claims (like a white person in the bronx stopped by nypd) to now understand racism! holy cow. all it took was an Israeli security team who determined author lied and therefore might be lying about more for him, a european white [presumably christian] male to understand racism! I wonder how many of the Israeli officials were of northern African descent and appearance?

      • Hostage on March 26, 2014, 12:05 pm

        I suppose Israel just ‘does the right thing’ and throws up it arms and says, “here, you Palestinians take sovereignty over all this disputed land.

        Israel has already done that. Parties to the UN human rights conventions are required to implement the provisions in all of the territories subject to their jurisdiction and to report on that undertaking as part of the Universal Periodic Review process. Israel has repeatedly stated that the Palestinian territories are NOT a part of the sovereign territory and jurisdiction of the State of Israel, e.g. See CCPR/C/ISR/2001/2, para 8 or E/1990/6/Add.32, para 6-7

        Even the defunct Oslo Accords stipulated that Palestinian authorities exercise “territorial jurisdiction” as well as personal jurisdiction over all of the Palestinian inhabitants.

      • NormanF on March 22, 2014, 7:42 pm

        Try that argument at border control in the US, the UK, France, Russia and China and see how far it gets you.

        And what about Egypt from whom Medea Benjamin was denied entry and forcibly deported a few weeks ago?

        Its not unfair and cruel for a country to send someone home. This is its right and its accepted by all states. You have a privilege – not a right to visit a foreign country and you’re always a guest in their home.

        So behave accordingly.

      • freespeechlover on March 25, 2014, 10:38 am

        A foreign country is not a “home,” and you are not a “guest.” If it’s true that you do not have a right to visit a foreign country, it is also the case that countries like Italy who have relations with said country that you do not have a right to visit, can and should intervene on behalf of their citizens in cases like these. Because Italy does not have an embassy in Tel Aviv without its citizens, not the other way around. It is absolutely the case that Israel does not owe Pesce entry. But the Italian government, on the other hand, as long as it claims to be a democracy, does owe Pesce many things. One of those is to intervene with and protest to the Israeli government when incidents such as the above occur. If Israel’s allies put their foot down, Israel would start treating such allies’ citizens better at its non-declared “borders.” It’s up to Western countries that are supposedly democratic to do a better job of representing their own citizens vis a vis Israel. The US government, the British, the Italians, the French, all could do a much better job of protecting their own citizens from harassment and nonsense at Ben Gurion or at the King Hussein Bridge, since Israel while not declaring the West Bank as “Israel,” stands at that border, harassing people, mostly but not exclusively Palestinians, denying them entry, holding them forever, claiming to operate security on behalf of some undeclared entity or at most the “P.A.”

        And while we’re at it, if the US govt had any respect for its own citizens without whom it doesn’t exist, it would not be talking about Israeli citizens being “fast tracked” through the visa program. Reciprocity is the rule in foreign relations among democratic states when such relations are equal. If Israel wants to harass US or Italian citizens, those countries have no business allowing Israeli citizens to come and go across their borders with ease.

        That is, IF we apply the logic you’ve rested your argument on above.

      • BrianEsker on March 22, 2014, 9:30 pm

        @Mondo Annie: “israel doesn’t have borders and it holds the key to palestine, which israel does not have sovereignty. ”

        You’re making this up Annie. Of course you are.

        People can enter the Palestinian territories through Jordan or through Egypt without Israeli control. Israel has the Med sea and cease fire lines from 1967 and administers part of the West bank BY MUTUAL AGREEMENT with the PA as of 1993.

        But you knew that. Why did you make up this other nonsense?

      • Hostage on March 24, 2014, 11:41 am

        People can enter the Palestinian territories through Jordan or through Egypt without Israeli control.

        Reality/honesty check:
        * Israel has banned Tunisian Ambassador to the Palestine Lotfi Mellouli from returning to Ramallah and resuming his functions at the Tunisian Embassy there.
        * India protests Israel’s refusal for NAM meet at Ramallah. The foreign ministers of Cuba, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Malaysia and Algeria, who were planning to cross from Jordan with their delegations, were denied entry. NAM members with which Israel does have relations are cleared to enter the country, the ministry said. These include Egypt, India, Columbia, South Africa, Senegal, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

      • adele on March 24, 2014, 3:22 pm

        well-done Hostage for defusing the lies the hasbarists like to tell themselves and the world. As if they don’t know that Israel has border security at the Jordanian crossings that determine who can come in and out of the Occupied Territories. Every time I crossed into the OT from Jordan my passport was scrutinized and stamped by Israeli border officials, and my belongings were searched by them, and I had to answer their intrusive questions (what is the purpose of your visit, who do you know there, what are their names, where do they live, etc). All the borders into the West Bank are under Israeli control in any way you wish you to look at it, unless maybe I parachuted in.

      • muradmurad on March 25, 2014, 3:28 am

        Many Countries have their embassy or consulate in the world.
        One of the essential job of an embassy to make a security and background checking before giving an entry clearance visa or refuse the Visitor(s) in its homeland.
        The Mossad or The Israeli Intelligence are good in doing their job before letting someone get into their country.

        IF Mr. Andrea Pesce was a treat or unwelcomed To Israel for any kind of reasons . They Could have rejected his visa / visit from the beginning before endup in this shit hole of confusing and nonsense.

        Afterall that its bad PR for ISREAL Image.

    • eljay on March 22, 2014, 7:05 pm

      >> Every country has the right to control its borders …

      But no country – not even Israel – has a right to exist as a supremacist state, or to engage in aggression, oppression, theft, colonization, destruction, torture and murder.

    • justicewillprevail on March 22, 2014, 7:36 pm

      what makes you think they would have let him in if he had told them his plans? Because the thought police taunted him that they would? Of course they would have denied him entry – they knew it, and he knew it. This is the Kafkaesque nightmare of Israeli bureaucracy, which empowers and encourages minor officials to harass and humiliate anyone who is either Palestinian or simply a friend of a Palestinian. It is another symptom of their apartheid system. What right do they have to deny entry to people who are going to Palestine?

    • Sumud on March 22, 2014, 10:01 pm

      Every country has the right to control its borders and to refuse entry to any one without having to give a reason.

      On that basis, how do you justify Palestine not having control of it’s borders?

      Why don’t Palestinians get to decide who to refuse entry to – why are Israelis in Palestine violating Palestine’s territorial integrity?

      Why Norman – we all want to know – where is sovereignty for Palestinians?

      • Mayhem on March 22, 2014, 11:56 pm

        @sumud, you are jumping the gun. That’s what these talks going on at the moment are about. It has yet to be established that the ‘Palestinians’ have the wherewithal to establish a state that will be vioable and not violate Israel’s integrity and security.

      • Mayhem on March 23, 2014, 8:49 am

        @sumud, you are jumping the gun. That’s what these talks going on at the moment are about. It has yet to be established that the ‘Palestinians’ have the wherewithal to establish a state that will be viable and not violate Israel’s integrity and security.

      • Sumud on March 24, 2014, 10:50 am

        Mayhem –

        That’s what these talks going on at the moment are about.

        Naftush –

        Those questions become pertinent if and when a sovereign Palestine is negotiated and the conflict brought to an end. Not before.

        Rubbish from both of you _ and NormanF can’t even find a response. Israel elected to join the UN voluntarily and was accepted into the UN on the basis they would abide by it’s charter and treaties.

        Palestine exists NOW and Israel is commenting multiple war crimes with the ongoing occupation.

        Palestinian human rights exist NOW and Israel is in breach of them in multiple instances.

        I repeat: why are Israelis in Palestine violating Palestine’s territorial integrity?
        And I add – what’s wrong you both that you do not object to war crimes and human rights violations on an obscene scale?

        The zionist interpretation of Never Again: ‘Never Again For Jews Only’ is an abomination and stain on the memory of all those who perished in the holocaust.

      • Naftush on March 23, 2014, 9:37 am

        Those questions become pertinent if and when a sovereign Palestine is negotiated and the conflict brought to an end. Not before.

      • adele on March 23, 2014, 1:14 pm

        oh NormanF, how utterly tragic you are.

    • muradmurad on March 25, 2014, 3:30 am

      Many Countries have their embassy or consulate in the world.
      One of the essential job of an embassy to make a security and background checking before giving an entry clearance visa or refuse the Visitor(s) in its homeland.
      The Mossad or The Israeli Intelligence are good in doing their job before letting someone get into their country.

      IF Mr. Andrea Pesce was a treat or unwelcomed To Israel for any kind of reasons . They Could have rejected his visa / visit from the beginning before endup in this shit hole of confusing and nonsense.

      Afterall that its bad PR for ISREAL Image.

  8. Kate on March 22, 2014, 2:23 pm

    In contrast, here we have an article from today’s Haaretz about four people who had no problems at Ben Gurion and no doubt would be astounded to hear about Andrea’s ordeal.

    Sarah Dexter, 22, Jake Evans, 23, from Virginia, and Cathie Dexter, 44, from Maryland; Cathie and Jake are arriving from New York

    Hello, can I ask what you’re doing here?

    Sarah: I’ve been here for two months, sightseeing in the Holy Land.

    Cathie: Jake and I have just landed. We’ve come to travel with her for another week.

    How has it been so far?

    Sarah: I couldn’t see it all, but I tried to see everything possible. The most beautiful part was the Friday evening walk on the ramparts of Jerusalem.

    Have you been traveling alone?

    I met some other American travelers, but most of the time I’ve been alone, and it was amazing.

    Why did you decide to visit Israel and then also drag your boyfriend and mother here?

    I got my university degree and said to myself that now I have the time – just before I have to start repaying the student loans, somehow. I majored in multicultural studies, so I thought it would be interesting to come here.

    Cathie: Besides which, I’ve already been here four times, and I told her it was worth going.

    Jake: I’ve never been here. And I’m her fiancé, by the way.

    You’ve been here four times, Cathie? Are you Jewish?

    Cathie: No, I’m Christian. The first time I was here was when my husband organized us a tour with a Christian group. I remember that I didn’t really want to go but somehow I ended up going, and then, when we got back home, I said, “Okay, when are we going back to Israel?” I’ve been here with different groups, including once with Messianic Jews, and also alone.

    I was surprised that some of these people had been to Israel alone, just wandering around. I was interrogated for maybe half an hour when I went – and part of the trouble was that I was alone – this was apparently considered suspicious. Wonder what makes the difference, how people are chosen to be harassed. Andrea may be right about their reading his emails – but when I went they weren’t doing this, and they were still suspicious about me – an older American woman who said she was planning to see some archaeological sites.

    • tony greenstein on March 22, 2014, 5:54 pm

      No doubt they would be astounded at Andrea Pesce’s treatment. This is always the way with repressive states. People visited South Africa and Nazi Germany and came away convinced that Blacks were fine and the stories about Jews being attacked were ‘atrocity propaganda.’

      A good example is Lord Rothermere, owner of the British Daily Mail writing on 4th September 1933.
      ‘‘They have started a clamorous campaign of denunciation against what they call ‘Nazi atrocities,’ which, as anyone who visits Germany quickly discovers for him self, consists merely of a few isolated acts of violence.’ Rothermere saw what he wanted to see, just like our four tourists.

    • freespeechlover on March 25, 2014, 10:41 am

      Are you assuming that there is some kind of explanation for what different people encounter and that the harassment isn’t in some very real ways random, because the security people at Ben Gurion can do it? Either out of boredom, hostility toward people for whatever reason, unspoken policy, or simply the will to power?

  9. braciole on March 22, 2014, 2:37 pm

    It’s good to see the Israeli Ministry for Internal Affairs support the BDS campaign – maybe the EU will show similar courage and support it as well.

  10. Citizen on March 22, 2014, 3:42 pm

    Anybody know how USA treats simple visitors from Israel when they come here?

    • just on March 23, 2014, 2:04 am

      I know one thing, Citizen. Some in our Congress want everybody from Israel to get a free pass and a hug.

      “The American-Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) suffered a defeat Friday when Congressional members went on winter recess without passing a bill that would have codified discrimination against Arab- and Muslim-American travelers to Israel/Palestine.

      AIPAC had been pushing the United States-Israel Strategic Partnership Act since their last policy conference in March. The bill, sponsored by Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Representative Brad Sherman (D-CA), had come under withering attack from a coalition of groups. ”


      “The act, backed by dozens of U.S. officials, would waive the need for Israeli travelers to possess a visa to enter the U.S. The countries that have this arrangement with the U.S. usually extend those same privileges to American travelers to their countries. But AIPAC had been pushing for language that would exempt Israel from reciprocity. Under the current version of the legislation, Israel would be allowed to deny American visitors entry if Israel said they posed a “security” risk to the state. The majority of those denied entry into the territories Israel controls–which includes occupied Palestine–are Arab- and Muslim-American travelers, as well as activists who work on Palestine.”

      • Ecru on March 23, 2014, 7:14 am

        @ Puppy

        “I know one thing, Citizen. Some in our Congress want everybody from Israel to get a free pass and a hug.”

        Not quite – Palestinian Israelis? Congress certainly doesn’t want to give them a free pass and a hug.

  11. DaBakr on March 22, 2014, 3:47 pm

    “there is no security reason behind this question…..”

    Says the author who has absolutely NO idea what criteria and what methods Israeli security firms working with El-Al employ to screen ‘tourists’ coming from nations genealy considered friendly and with passengers that do not fit any general mold of ‘political operative’. Until such time as El-Al is victim once again to random acts of terror or El-Al is used as a conduit for communications between seemingly innocent european ‘tourists’ and terror cells in the ME she should either stfu, take another airline, go Allenby/Jordan and or avoid traveling to Israel.

    If we have to hear yet another sob story about the ‘poor poor’ innocent _______(reporter/tourist/high school student-18yrs of course) and other traveler to Israle who feels harassed by the intricate and invasive Israeli security system in place to prevent attacks which yes-actually and really did occur before such tactics were put in place- its like listening to the KKK complaining about the rotten tomatoes thrown their way during another Skokie march. Sorry poor Ms. Italian but countless Jewish Americans, Europeans and others Jew and non-Jew alike have been subject to inc=vasive screening questions and sometimes physical searches in the quest to keep Israel terror free. Sorry for your inconvenience. Most people who support our Nation understand these unpleasant screenings are put in place and a necessary trouble for our own good. Believe me-if we had the ‘secret vision’ and the mysterious ‘Zionist omnipotence’ we would only harass those customers who actually ARE bringing contraband, meeting with terror cells and otherwise planning mayhem. But until such day-El-Al will continue to screen those it sees fit to screen that often meet a criteria that is generated more by computer matching then any personal animosity you may believe you can discern.
    And remember-it was not Israel that started out to be the top security expert in the world of aviation. It was the other way around. It (my family personally) was the victim looking for a way to insure safe passage because who in their right mind would fly an aircraft where they knew there would be a good chance of a bomb getting through. So either enjoy the price of security or enjoy your right to boycott. Your choice.
    p.s. I have been vigorously screened myself and could have taken umbrage due to my station but what would be the point. Do you know the computer can detect on your facial muscles the difference between actual hatred for a subject versus irritation at the screener for the particular intrusion? Israel haters are always so quick to assume its personal animosity from the screeners pov when in reality-it is the travelers animosity that piques the interest if the screener. And they know very well some folks fully intend to try and start up a ‘bru-ha’ strictly for the attention they can throw on Israel-so they think. But then who does the world in general turn to when facing security risk in the aviation industry? As kids say, DUH.
    And what do you think? Israel is going to go backwards to the ‘good old days’ of one-on-one ‘military style’ screening instead of moving forward with the most advanced technology available? And don’t you know that Arab and Muslim [plus other] nations are scrambling to either copy or purchase such technology from its innovators (i’ll let you guess who that may be)

    so sorry for your troubles but when protecting family, tribe, and even my Arab-Israeli brethren who live and work with me every day in peace-I pull no punches and while you and MW/BDS cultists may relish the chance to criticize Israel-this is where we gain our reputation for being obnoxious, determined and tough. We don’t care.

  12. seafoid on March 22, 2014, 4:10 pm

    Paranoid sonsofbitches.

    They are so scared of the hall of mirrors collapsing that they treat visitors like this.
    Nobody is “welcome to Israel” unless they are Jewish or fundi Christian.
    And if you try to visit the people under the carpet they can turn on the Stasi treatment.
    But hasbara is dead, baby.

    I bet a wiser Beinart will come out , after the part where TSHTF and say that in retrospect it was a mistake to transplant a deeply traumatised rump people to a part of the Middle East that had done nothing wrong.

    Zionism was a nice idea but the factor that made it possible- WW2- was the same factor that made it ultimately impossible.

    • DaBakr on March 22, 2014, 7:08 pm

      says the person who logically has twisted the facts into the cart coming before the horse. i suppose it would be something to celebrate if security was completely lax and something horrific happened [again] only to start a new round of what you call ‘paranoia’ (funny how many nations -both friend and foe-come knocking on Israel’s door when it comes to airline security yet you choose to see only what your blinders allow) we are all very certain that for every story like this poor soul has told there are 100s of others who enter Israel with decidedly hostile intentions and yet somehow travel through to wherever they please-totally unmolested. and don’t tell me that blumethal only gets by because he’s a Jew as if the Israelis are too dumb to know exactly who and what blumethal does. and for every mb there are dozens more who do not happen to be Jewish. In fact-this story would be a wet dream for someone like max who woulf milk it too the extreme

    • BrianEsker on March 22, 2014, 9:37 pm

      Frozen seafood anyone? How about some nice poisonous Kool Aid?

      1.7 MILLION people visited Israel in the first 1/2 of 2013. For a country of less than 8 million people…that’s actually astonishing. Apparently it’s a record number too.

      Lots from China. I don’t too many of them were Jewish or “Fundi X-tian.” So go make up another theory.,7340,L-4403001,00.html

      • seafoid on March 23, 2014, 4:05 pm

        1.8 m is pathetic for a country of 8m on the med. Portugal gets 11m, greece 16m, croatia 9m.

        Israel is too obnoxious.

      • adele on March 23, 2014, 4:24 pm


        there were so many tourists from China that they DON’T even figure on this chart:

        Foreign visitor arrivals in 2011 – Top 21:
        United States: 633,868
        Russia: 491,469
        France: 300,566
        United Kingdom: 221,095
        Germany: 220,692
        Italy: 151,252
        Ukraine: 137,342
        Poland: 95,958
        Canada: 76,636
        Netherlands: 63,053
        Brazil: 56,889
        Spain: 56,204
        Nigeria: 45,095
        Switzerland: 40,912
        Romania: 40,255
        India: 38,870
        Belgium: 37,039
        Austria: 35,166
        Australia: 34,203
        Argentina: 33,538
        South Korea: 32,718


    • puppies on March 23, 2014, 12:28 am

      @seafoid – “unless they are Jewish or fundi Christian.” Bet you an old sock that Pesce is biologically Jewish and can make a lot of noise in Italy.

    • W.Jones on March 23, 2014, 1:00 am


      When you say Zionism was a nice idea, do you mean the idea of a state for one community only in the Holy Land? Or are you merely talking about their migration to the Holy Land?

      • seafoid on March 23, 2014, 4:07 pm

        The notion of an ingathering of Jewws. It was a pity they had no land. That was the beginning of the calamity.

      • W.Jones on March 23, 2014, 8:20 pm

        The ingathering is nice, I think, based on the Bible. And people going to their homeland is nice too.

        On the other hand, if they don’t, does it have to be a pity? The Roma don’t really have a homeland they are particularly interested in. Can America be as much a home to African Americans as to American Jews?

        So perhaps the one (ingathering) can be nice, but the other (lack of land) need not be bad?

    • RoHa on March 23, 2014, 6:31 am

      “Zionism was a nice idea”

      No it wasn’t. It contained the ideas of exclusivity and the rejection of humanity right from the beginning.

  13. DICKERSON3870 on March 22, 2014, 5:16 pm

    RE: “This is the beginning of the nightmare… I cannot express my feelings exactly: maybe I can say that, having fallen deeply into a total irrational system, the only way to avoid becoming crazy, was to start to think in a completely different way. But it wasn’t easy.” ~ Andrea Pesce

    MY COMMENT: It sounds as though Andrea Pesce went through quite a metamorphosis!

    FROM WIKIPEDIA [The Metamorphosis]:

    [EXCERPTS] The Metamorphosis (German: Die Verwandlung, also sometimes translated as The Transformation) is a novella by Franz Kafka, first published in 1915. It has been cited as one of the seminal works of fiction of the 20th century and is studied in colleges and universities across the Western world. The story begins with a traveling salesman, Gregor Samsa, waking to find himself transformed into a monstrous vermin. It is never explained in the story why Samsa transforms, nor did Kafka ever give an explanation.
    • Part I
    One day Gregor Samsa, a traveling salesman, wakes up to find himself transformed into a “ungeheures Ungeziefer”, literally “monstrous vermin”, often interpreted as a giant bug or insect. He believes it is a dream, and reflects on how dreary life as a traveling salesman is. He looks at the wall clock and realizes that he has overslept and missed his train for work. He ponders on the consequences of this delay, and is annoyed at how his boss never accepts excuses or explanations from any of his employees no matter how hard working they are, displaying an apparent lack of trusting abilities. Gregor’s mother knocks on the door and he answers her. She is concerned for Gregor because he is late for work, which is unorthodox for Gregor. Gregor answers his mother and realizes that his voice has changed, but his answer is short so his mother does not notice the voice change. His sister, Grete, to whom he was very close then whispers through the door and begs him to open the door. All his family members think that he is ill and ask him to open the door. He tries to get out of bed but he is incapable of moving his body. While trying to move, he finds that his office manager, the chief clerk has showed up to check on him. He finally rocks his body to the floor and calls out that he will open the door shortly.
    Feeling offended by Gregor’s delayed response in opening the door, the clerk warns him of the consequences of missing work. He adds that his recent performance has been unsatisfactory. Gregor disagrees and tells him that he will open the door shortly. Nobody on the other side of the door could understand a single word he uttered (Gregor was unaware of the fact that his voice has also transformed) and conclude that he is seriously ill. Finally, Gregor manages to unlock and open the door with his mouth. He apologizes to the office manager for the delay. Horrified by the sight of Gregor’s appearance, the manager bolts out of the apartment, while Gregor’s mother faints. Gregor tries to catch up with him but his father drives him back into the bedroom with a cane and a rolled newspaper. Gregor injures himself squeezing back through the doorway, and his father slams the door shut. Gregor, exhausted, falls asleep.
    • Part II
    Gregor wakes and sees that someone has put milk and bread in his room. Initially excited, he quickly discovers that he has no taste for milk, once one of his favorite foods. He settles himself under a couch. The next morning, his sister comes in, sees that he has not touched the milk, and replaces it with rotting food scraps, which Gregor happily eats. This begins a routine in which his sister feeds him and cleans up while he hides under the couch, afraid that his appearance will frighten her. Gregor spends his time listening through the wall to his family members talking. They often discuss the difficult financial situation they find themselves in now that Gregor can’t provide for them. Gregor had plans of sending Grete to the conservatorium to pursue violin lessons, something that everyone else including Grete considered to be a dream. Gregor was however pretty determined to do so on the same Christmas before which the metamorphosis occurs. His incapability of being the provider of his family as well as his shattered dreams in respect to his sister coupled with his speechlessness reduces his thought process to a great respect. Gregor also learns that his mother wants to visit him, but his sister and father will not let her.
    Gregor grows more comfortable with his changed body. He begins climbing the walls and ceiling for amusement. Discovering Gregor’s new pastime, Grete decides to remove some of the furniture to give Gregor more space. She and her mother begin taking furniture away, but Gregor finds their actions deeply distressing. He tries to save a picture on the wall of a woman wearing a fur hat, fur scarf, and a fur muff. Gregor’s mother sees him hanging on the wall and passes out. Grete calls out to Gregor—the first time anyone has spoken directly to him since his transformation. Gregor runs out of the room and into the kitchen. The father throws apples at Gregor, and one of them sinks into a sensitive spot in his back and remains lodged there, paralyzing his movements for a month and damaging it permanently. Gregor manages to get back into his bedroom but is severely injured.
    • Part III
    One evening, the cleaning lady leaves Gregor’s door open while the boarders lounge about the living room. Grete has been asked to play the violin for them, and Gregor who usually took care to avoid crossing paths with anyone in the flat, in the midst of his depression and thus caused detachment, creeps out of his bedroom to listen. The boarders, who initially seemed interested in Grete, grow bored with her performance, but Gregor is transfixed by it. One of the boarders spots Gregor and they become alarmed. Gregor’s father tries to shove the boarders back into their rooms, but the three men protest and announce that they will move out immediately without paying rent because of the disgusting conditions in the apartment.
    Grete, who has by now become tired of taking care of Gregor and is realizing the amount of burden his existence puts on each one in the family, tells her parents that they must get rid of Gregor or they will all be ruined. Her father agrees, wishing Gregor could understand them and would leave of his own accord. Gregor does in fact understand and slowly moves back to the bedroom. There, determined to rid his family of his presence, Gregor dies.
    Upon discovering that Gregor is dead, the family feels a great sense of relief. The father kicks out the boarders and decides to fire the cleaning lady, who has disposed of Gregor’s body. The family takes a trolley ride out to the countryside, during which they consider their finances. Months of spare living as a result of Gregor’s condition have left them with substantial savings. They decide to move to a smaller apartment than the present one to further save their finances, an act which they were unable to carry out in Gregor’s presence. During this short trip, Mr. and Mrs. Samsa realize that in spite of going through hardships which have brought an amount of paleness to her face, Grete appears to have grown up into a pretty and well figured lady, which leads her parents to think about finding her a husband. . .

    SOURCE –

    • on March 23, 2014, 12:02 am

      yeah and what?

      • DICKERSON3870 on March 23, 2014, 10:27 pm

        I think Kafka would empathize with Andrea Pesce.

  14. palijustice on March 22, 2014, 5:49 pm

    The lack of help given Andrea by Italy while he was going through this awful experience by the Israeli authorities, is also disturbing. The Italian embassy said that while he was in that prison room he was unreachable. I wonder why governments don’t protest vigorously, or, better yet, to try and stop it, give Israeli citizens a dose of their own medicine by keeping them in detention until they put them back on a flight to Israel with some trumped up explanation. I think this might have an affect on stopping the Israeli tormentors from ruining people’s vacation plans. Unless there are some consequences, these episodes will just continue.

  15. Amelia on March 22, 2014, 5:52 pm

    Andrea I had a very similar experience to you last year. I think your questions at the end are dead on. The single thing that stood out to me was the way I felt must be nothing in comparison to how Palestinians feel everyday in their interactions with Israel.

  16. dbroncos on March 23, 2014, 12:07 am

    Mr. Pesce’s story has reached an international audience, a story of abuse he’ll repeat many times to people who otherwise may not have had an opinion about the Jewish State much less a bad opinion. All for the sneering satisfaction of detaining and deporting a “liar”. Israeli officials seem not to understand the damage done to the state by these policies of harrassment and abuse. Pure hubris.

  17. kalithea on March 23, 2014, 1:05 am

    Behind the Iron…Wall.

    So you got it. Those were exactly the questions to ask yourself.

    1. Yes, they want you to hate them; so please do them a favor!

    2. What can they do to Palestinians? Where does one start…okay, just imagine your 10 years old and you’re walking home one day and soldiers come up to you in a van and grab you and take you away, bully and beat you and throw you in a cell. Now imagine how that child feels?

    I wish Scarlett Jo would get this treatment; maybe she wouldn’t be so quick to give up Oxfam to parade in a short, tight black dress and sell Apartheid products.

  18. Dunnit007 on March 23, 2014, 7:04 am

    This article did not surprise me as I had read Max Blumenthal’s “Goliath”. Andrea Pesce affirms what was written by Max Blumenthal:

    “Today, Lod Airport is named for the man whose stern wave of the hand brought it under Israeli control—it is Ben Gurion International Airport. Ben Gurion International is a cavernous, modern, glass-and-steel edifice that seems from an exterior glance like any other airport in a major Western capital. Once inside, however, the terminal’s unique qualities come into immediate focus. As soon as they land or seek to depart from Israel, passengers are subjected to a rigorous process of ethnic categorization and psychoanalysis designed to vet the suitability of their presence inside Israeli-controlled frontiers. Masquerading as security measures, the vetting procedures are reflections of the discriminatory policies that govern the relationship between Israeli Jews, Palestinians, and the outside world. With an atmosphere crackling with the neurotic mood of ethnic suspicion and its hyper-securitized, high-tech gleam, Ben Gurion International is a microcosm of the modern Jewish state.”

  19. a blah chick on March 23, 2014, 11:08 am

    I’ve asked this question before and I’ll ask it again: if Israel does not want these people to come why do the embassies give them visa in the first place?

  20. blarmore on March 23, 2014, 7:22 pm

    This is why I avoid Ben Gurion at all costs. Too much risk of arbitrary denial of entry. I hope you’ll cross via Jordan next time mate. It’s much easier.

    • Accentitude on March 25, 2014, 2:26 am

      Crossing via Jordan is hardly easier unless the person crossing is Israeli or a friendly foreign national and even then its only a barely less infuriating. The Sheikh Hussein bridge further north on the border which crosses from Jordan directly into Israel is hands-off for most Arabs but even there, you can expect the great service Israel is known for. The Allenby bridge, further south, which crosses into West Bank Jordan Valley….after passing through Jordanian checkpoint, two Israeli checkpoints and faux Palestinian checkpoint is notoriously bad. That’s the one we’re allowed to use:

      I got the VIP treatment there too… Israelis….AND…Jordanians. If you thought the Shin Bet were bad, try the Jordanian intelligence. They give the Shin Bet a run for their money.

      • freespeechlover on March 25, 2014, 10:45 am

        And they’re all work extremely slowly at the bridges, both Israelis and Jordanians. Unless you pay for VIP passage. That’s the only way to make life easy on yourself–m-o-n-e-y, which shows you what can trump “security” at a moment’s notice.

  21. jon s on March 26, 2014, 2:35 pm

    A positive development, reported by Amira Hass:

  22. telavivit on March 27, 2014, 7:49 am

    I am amazed by the lack of perspective of Andrea. He claims to have been visited Israel and Palestine for 15 years and to be interested in the political situation, but he comes out as someone extremely naive. Israel is under constant threat of terrorist attacks. At the same time. it strives to be a welcoming place and tolerant (many minorities, including myself, live here without being Jewish). You simply cannot ask for a one month permission to stay and to tell official that you are just “going to go around”. You need names, places, telephone numbers, plans. Otherwise they will assume you are lying, which is what he was doing. Lie to officials for fear of saying that he was going to the Territories to help Palestinians. To lie is just the worst thing you can do, you will be put in the category of a trouble maker, someone who has things to hide. This is not his first visit, so he cannot be that naive. I think there is something which he deliberately left out of the story. I have been living here for 7 years, had lots of questioning and checks, but never lied and was never denied entry. Israel has so much intelligence, you cannot be vague in your answer. Europeans are not used to be questioned, they reason in terms of personal freedom, “I can do what I want”. Yes, you can be gay, lesbian, Muslim, Druze, Christian etc. and they will let you in. But you cannot be a liar.

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