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Five US citizens detained, interrogated, denied entry to Israel


On July 17, 2016, a group of young American delegates traveled to Israel-Palestine in order to observe the conditions under which Palestinians live, and to gain a better understanding of the situation on the ground. Upon their arrival, a US Campaign staffer and four other members of the group — all carrying US passports — were interrogated by Israeli border police about their backgrounds and political involvement.

One of the delegates, Bina Ahmad, a New York City public defender and former vice president of the National Lawyers Guild, was denied entry to the country and given no reason why, then transferred to a filthy cell without knowing how long she would be held. Some of the female detainees were asked irrelevant and intrusive questions about their personal relationships, and were held for as long as 18 hours. All five of the delegates endured similarly degrading and terrifying ordeals, and were put on flights back to the US. Some received travel bans that bar them from entering Israel or the occupied Palestinian territories for the next 10 years.

Calls to the US Consulate’s Citizen Services resulted in no assistance for the delegates. Some officials made comments indicating they had no power over the treatment of US citizens held at the airport despite visa agreements between Israel and the United States.

It is an outrage that Israel habitually mistreats US citizens and refuses to adhere to these visa agreements. There is a well-documented pattern of Israel denying entry to US citizens attempting to visit Israel or the occupied West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza. In June of 2014, congressional staffers heard briefings on the Hill regarding the matter.

During this particular delegation, four of the five delegates who were questioned, held, and denied entry were people of color and Muslim, and the fifth had a long beard. Israel has ethnically and religiously profiled visitors so often that the State Department’s travel advisory for Israel reads: “Some US citizens of Arab or Muslim heritage not on the Palestinian Population Registry or otherwise prohibited from entering Israel have experienced significant difficulties and unequal and hostile treatment at Israel’s borders and checkpoints.”

At a press briefing in March of 2014, State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki stated that “the Department of Homeland Security and State remain concerned with the unequal treatment that Palestinian Americans and other American of Middle Eastern origin experience at Israel’s border and checkpoints, and reciprocity is the most basic condition of the Visa Waiver.” In August of 2015, State Department spokesperson John Kirby added that “the US Government remains concerned at the unequal treatment that Palestinian-Americans and other Arab-Americans receive at Israel’s borders.”

Quotes from the delegates:

“After repeatedly asking why I was being yelled at, handcuffed, and threatened with force, I was never given any explanation for the treatment I received. In fact, I was told that they did not owe me an explanation, and that any rights I had as a US citizen were invalid under Israeli law. The only thing made clear during the 18 hour ordeal was that their dehumanization of me was based on a ‘hunch’ rooted in nothing more than my name and ethnic background.”

-A 26-year-old American of South Asian descent, who asked not to be named

“It was apparent from the moment I landed that Israel abuses Muslims. Israeli security forces aggressively interrogated me numerous times over many hours, inappropriately demanding access to my private email accounts and demanding that I give them names of Palestinian activists. I refused. When I told them I wanted to visit Masjid Al-Aqsa and the Dome of the Rock, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, they mocked me and insulted my faith before strip-searching me and shoving me into a cold detention prison. The degrading treatment that I experienced as a US Muslim pales in comparison to the daily humiliations suffered by Palestinians. Israel controls the movement of Palestinians, including Palestinian-Americans, into and out of Israel-Palestine. This system of control at the borders is discriminatory and unjust, and another manifestation of Israel’s apartheid policies. That the US continues to support these policies is shameful.”

-Muhammed Malik, former Executive Director of Council on American-Islamic Relations (South Florida), and co-founder of Muslims for Ferguson

“At some point the woman interrogating me called me a terrorist in the main waiting area at the bridge where there were plenty of people around, accusing me of coming to do bombings and threatening to tell the US government this. All of this was based only on me being visibly Muslim. The US government is an active partner in Israel’s war crimes against Palestinians, providing billions in military aid every year. Our experience traveling to witness the reality of life for Palestinians is proof once again that both countries are plagued with institutionalized racism, Islamophobia, and militarism.”

-Ramah Kudaimi, Director of Grassroots Organizing, US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation

“As a human rights attorney in the US, I am outraged by this level of blatant discrimination. Working on human rights and criminal defense in the US, I see these patterns of discrimination in my work every day, where US police officers and security personnel routinely train with and share tactics and profiling systems with Israel. The deportation of a majority Muslim and people of color group is an example of how Israel engages in Islamophobia and racism, and silences debate by preventing the world from hearing the testimony of those who bear witness to the plight of Palestinians.”

-Bina Ahmad, New York City public defender

US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation

The US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation is the largest and most diverse coalition working to change U.S. policy toward Palestine/Israel to support human rights, international law, and equality. Learn more at

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25 Responses

  1. Marnie on August 3, 2016, 10:17 am

    They know that the united states has never done anything and will continue to do nothing to them, so they willfully humiliate u.s. citizens based on skin color and religion. They see how the united states denigrates their own citizens of color and the unabashed hatred expressed for all Muslims including american citizens. The zionist enterprise might behave differently if it weren’t for the hypocrisy of the united states. I’m not making excuses for the hateful zionist state. This should be a wake up to the u.s. government.

    Didn’t Hitler and his minions find the racism of america, with its segregated troops, particularly amusing considering the united states was presenting itself as a beacon of tolerance and democracy, and still lynching its African Americans citizens?

  2. K Renner on August 3, 2016, 10:28 am

    America consistently fails its citizens in this regard. Shameful and pathetic.

  3. Kay24 on August 3, 2016, 11:59 am

    Yet another reason why we should not be sending that humungous aid package to the land of apartheid policies. If they can do this to US citizens, imagine what they are dishing out to the poor Palestinian people under their occupation.

    • just on August 3, 2016, 12:53 pm

      Another 5 (five) reasons…

      AGAIN~ the US Department of State and its icky ambassador in the US Embassy (Daniel B. Shapiro) do absolutely NOTHING. Your tax dollars at work.

  4. inbound39 on August 3, 2016, 1:00 pm

    This behaviour by Israel has been known for some time yet America and UK stand joined at the hip with this despotic State of Israel. Why would they? It seems the American Government and British Government thinks it is okay to view their citizens as unimportant and suitably qualified to be abused by Israel. Why is that? Is it within their tiny minds to realise that these governments do not attract voters by sanctioning such abuse by Israel? Does it not cross their minds that Israel has zero respect for them and has no intention of treating them politely? Seemingly Israel cherishes being rude,abrasive and insulting…it appears to cherish agressiveness and isolation. Why would any just state support Israel? Why would anyone give them weapons? They cannot conduct themselves responsibly or maturely without weapons and American and British Governments crawl across the floor to put weapons in these peoples hands….why?

    • RoHa on August 3, 2016, 10:21 pm

      Slightly off topic, but here is a BBC story about 400 missing government files.

      Interestingly, they include:
      -a Foreign Office file from 1979 entitled: “Military and nuclear collaboration with Israel: Israeli nuclear armament”.
      (This vanished from a set of files relating to arms control. The remainder seem to have survived.)
      – documents on the planning of Jerusalem from its time under British administration
      (‘The missing files include a 1918 memorandum by the British architect and civil servant Sir William McLean who submitted a master plan to develop Jerusalem while preserving the Old City.
      The file included 23 photographs depicting the plans including a “panoramic view of Mount of Olives; outer and inner city views”.’)

      Mice got them, I’m sure.

  5. amigo on August 3, 2016, 1:27 pm

    So you are not Jewish??.

    “Entry denied ” .

    Next .

    Wait a minute , I may be a Goy but don’t I at least get to visit the donkey room so I can demonstrate my commitment to Israel. I promise I am a good Goy. I can cite the torah backwards.

    • echinococcus on August 3, 2016, 3:41 pm


      Looks like they’ll soon force everybody to learn Hewbrew in order to understand English texts.
      When was it that the revisionist team, in its effort to recast the English language in the Zionists’ image, renamed the Old Testament, too?

      • amigo on August 3, 2016, 6:45 pm

        Zionists are like animals trapped in a net , the more they wriggle and twist , the more trapped they become.

        It would be more satisfying to watch if it were not for the brutality they mete out to their victims in the process.

  6. Citizen on August 4, 2016, 6:34 am

    More ethnic and/or religious abuse of US citizen visitors, more illegal settlements & demolitions of native homes? Bad boy…here’s another $50 billion–no strings attached & with interest, as usual.
    If Herman the German and his wife were guilty, so is Dick & Jane. There are still US Jews around who won’t buy a German car, no matter how good it is–we need BDS now, more than ever–go Bernie kids!

  7. JimMichie on August 4, 2016, 8:25 am

    Typical of a fascist state, Zionist Israel! Yet, Phil and Adam, you’ve given up on fighting for an independent State of Palestine, hoping that somehow, the brutal, racist, genocidal, ethnic cleansing Zionists in control of Zionist Israel and all of what remains of Palestine will turn away from fascism and begin practicing Judaism: “What is hateful to you, do not to your fellowmen. That is the entire Law; all the rest is commentary.” Talmud, Shabbat 31:a

    Please, don’t hold your breaths!

  8. Theo on August 4, 2016, 9:24 am

    When you have an israeli zionist as a friend, you don´t need any enemies!
    This land of beacon of democracy and freedom is a captive slave of international zionism and now we may learn how did the negroes feel when we treated them as second rate humans.
    Friends, it will not get better, but worse, when Hillary moves into the WH.
    Trump may not be such a dependent on zionist money, however who wants him in the WH? He is destroying his chances every single day, and it is good so!

  9. katie 1 on August 4, 2016, 9:49 am

    Thanks Mondoweiss for running this important, infuriating story-but headline needs to be changed. Israel, with not a word from US gov’t, denied US citizens entry to both Israel AND Palestine. With its control of entry and exit into Gaza, the West Bank including Jerusalem, all ports, airports etc, Israel of course is continuing to isolate Palestinians and block the in-person solidarity and witnessing (& simple basic human and cultural exchange and relationships) these five Americans- and so many others from the US and around the world- want in and with Palestine.

  10. aloeste on August 4, 2016, 12:29 pm

    only a fool lets his enemy into his country . it’s fair to say that the given individuals’ organizations easily fill the bill. they have more chance to enter israel than jews do to saudi…
    but enemies shouldn’t waste money on a ticket….

    • talknic on August 4, 2016, 1:03 pm

      @ aloeste

      “only a fool lets his enemy into his country”

      Would you say that someone who wants to colonize your country was an enemy?

      “they have more chance to enter israel than jews do to saudi…”

      A) Apparently not. They were refused entry into Israel and Gaza and the West Bank/East Jerusalem

      B) Why would a Jew want to go to Saudi Arabia? BTW It’s Israelis who’re prevented from entering Saudi Arabia

    • Mr.T on August 4, 2016, 4:09 pm

      “only a fool lets his enemy into his country”

      And yet you people complain when the Muslims try to bar their enemies from Al-Haram al-Sharif.

    • Mooser on August 4, 2016, 7:49 pm

      “only a fool lets his enemy into his country “

      That’s what I’ve been trying to say “aloeste”!
      This crying “Horowitz” and slipping in like Flynn has got to stop. For G-d’s sake, “aloeste” how much more evidence do they need that not every Jew is a Zionist Jew?
      And they are only fooling themselves, and failing the people of Israel, by not closely interrogating every apparent “Jew” in detail using their social media (“‘Horowitz’, huh? Well, ‘Horowitz’ who is what we have to know!”) before letting them into the country.
      It’s much too easy for Jewish people to enter Israel and do bad stuff and slip out again! And what with the Jewish self-hatred and internalized antisemitism epidemic enervating vast numbers of Jews we can’t be too careful!
      Don’t you agree, “aloeste”?

  11. Elizabeth Block on August 4, 2016, 12:44 pm

    Several years ago a Palestinian professor was visiting Canada. The first thing he told us was how he was treated when he arrived at the airport in Toronto. He was pulled aside, detained for hours, not allowed to contact his hostess, had to fight for the right to go to the bathroom, and asked whether, while he was in Canada, he was going to say anything derogatory about … ISRAEL. Not Canada. Israel.
    I know that Canadian police go to Israel for training in “crowd control.” Do border officials get the same training?

  12. Elizabeth Block on August 4, 2016, 12:46 pm

    I was there in March, and got in with no trouble. But I’m not young, not male, not Muslim, Jewish though not visibly so. And I told them I was going birdwatching, which was the truth but not the whole truth. I certainly didn’t tell them I was going to Palestine.
    And then there was the Mondoweiss editor who also got in with no trouble, no questions — but he has a Jewish surname.

  13. lysias on August 4, 2016, 5:16 pm

    Israel detains senior World Vision employee, raids Jerusalem office:

    Israel has detained a member of staff from World Vision for more than 40 days and raided its Jerusalem office.

    World Vision is the world’s largest evangelical Christian charity and has operated in Israel-Palestine for more than 40 years.

    However, it confirmed to ThinkProgress that one of its employees, Mohammad El Halabi, was detained while working in Gaza.

    Richard Silverstein points out why the Israeli charges against this man are unbelievable.

    • Mr.T on August 4, 2016, 7:34 pm

      “Richard Silverstein points out why the Israeli charges against this man are unbelievable.”

      You mean besides the fact that the charges were levied by a government without a shred of decency, honor or humanity???

    • RoHa on August 4, 2016, 8:10 pm

      The useless drongoes of the Australian Government are now flapping about whether the funds they gave to World Vision have been used to “finance terrorism”.

      (There’s a three part tautology for you. Drongoes are useless by definition, and the Australian Government by tradition.)

      • RoHa on August 5, 2016, 6:58 am

        (Of course, if an Australian government were any use, we wouldn’t be allowed to have one. It’s a very short leash. Gough Whitlam always looked dodgy, and when it turned out that he thought Australia should have its own foreign policy, it was clear he had to go. Kevin Rudd apparently believed he should put Australia’s interests before Israel’s. ‘Nuff said. Tony Abbot looked perfect, until it became clear that he really wasn’t going to play the Global Warming game. Too much Big Money and Presidential prestige involved. Exit Tony. And we’ve still got that order in for F35s.)

  14. inbound39 on August 5, 2016, 4:01 am

    I have to say…given the checks World Vision would have and do have in place to check where funds go due to more and more questions being asked by people like Ileanna Ros Lehtinen et al, it is difficult to believe. Halabi being as educated as he is would not risk the likelihood of being caught. I don’t think he is that stupid. I would be more inclined to think Israel is attempting to discredit foreign NGO’s and Aid Agencies as payback for the damage they caused diplomatically for Israel during Protective Edge.

  15. inbound39 on August 6, 2016, 10:17 am

    World Vision based on information recieved from Israel and what Israel has verbally said they state they have no reason to believe Halabi has done anything wrong and they maintain support for Halabi. Now its all down to Israel to convince everyone Halabi and World Vision is lying. Not the kind of thing Israel can afford to get wrong. The cost diplomatically and support wise will be great if they get proved wrong and World Vision is cleared.

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