This is an interesting story. Meyer Koplow is the chair of Brandeis University and a big deal lawyer at Wachtell Lipton in NY. He gives “millions” to Israel, and is a pillar of the Israel lobby. His son Michael, who works for a pro-Israel organization, has posted a thread on twitter about his father’s “aggressive interrogation” at the Israeli airport on July 15 because he had a pamphlet with the word Palestine on it and had visited the West Bank with a pro-Israel group called Encounter.
Of course Palestinians face worse all the time, but Michael Koplow sees this as another sign of the chasm between Israeli and American Jews:
“I have a personal anecdote to share that is a perfectly sad microcosm of everything wrong with the way Israel treats information as a threat and American Jews as objects of suspicion
“My dad was in Israel for the past two weeks, spending one week visiting me and the fam while we’re here and spending the second week in the West Bank with other American Jewish leaders on an Encounter Leadership Intensive aimed at hearing the Palestinian narrative firsthand. For some background, my dad is as American Jewish establishment as it gets: 3 time shul president, former UJA board member, current chair of Brandeis University, has contributed millions to Israeli institutions including Shaarei Tzedek, Hebrew U, and AMIT. Textbook pro-Israel. He left yesterday to go home, went through Ben Gurion security without a hitch, and once at the gate got paged over the loudspeaker to go to the info desk.
“Once there, a security officer said there was a problem with his luggage and they wanted to ask him some questions about where he had been and what he was doing. Turns out that he had taken a tourism pamphlet from a hotel in Bethlehem that had the word Palestine on it, and that triggered an aggressive interrogation because spending time in the West Bank immediately raises unacceptable red flags. The officer asked him to prove that Encounter was a real organization, demanded to know who else was on the trip (which he refused to divulge because of confidentiality), and expressed doubts that he was telling the truth, repeating questions to try and catch him in a lie.
“The kicker, of course, was the incredulous question about why he would want to go to the West Bank and what he planned to do with the information he saw, as if seeing the daily reality of life in the WB firsthand ipso facto will create a pressing threat to Israel’s security. This happened to a completely non-threatening grandfather, who has been to Israel dozens of times, and who is a major philanthropist to Jewish causes in Israel.
“More worrisome, it was the result of going through his checked bag and literally reading through the papers in it. Security at Ben Gurion weren’t set off by a weapon. They weren’t looking for a bomb. They pulled him back from the gate on his way out of the country because they went digging through his personal items and found a Palestine tourism pamphlet. Let that sink in for a moment.
“We have moved from Israel being worried about tangible security threats, to treating BDS advocates and protestors as if they are security threats, to treating any evidence of basic engagement with Palestinians as security threats. Simple information is treated as dangerous. There is also the issue of how Israel treats American Jews. That my dad is a particularly prominent one who has made the Jewish state an object of his philanthropic generosity makes this story seem worse, but that actually should not be germane to this situation.
“In what universe does it make sense to treat someone with my dad’s profile – an older, rumpled, kippah-wearing American – as an object of suspicion? Even if the state is going to cynically treat American Jews like dollar signs, that would be better than what transpires. Israelis can pretend that the crisis with American Jews is about spoiled millennials, Reform Jews who don’t appreciate their heritage, assimilated Americans living their comfortable lives in blissful ignorance, etc. (have I hit all of the most obnoxious stereotypes?) But it is much, much more than that. If Israel wants American Jews to feel like they have any stake in the state and that it is something worthy of support, praise, and defense, it has to minimally respect them and their philosophical values of openness and basic decency.
“There is a bigger storm coming than the Israeli government cares to understand, and I have seen it infiltrating into some surprising quarters of American Jewry for years. My dad’s story is not unique. When Israel finally wakes up to the problem, it will be too late.”
Alexandra Whitney response:
My grandparents from Jerusalem (Ayn Karim) were made stateless exiles in 48. I am banned from travel to visit great-grandparents graves. I can’t even get through to the West Bank. Period.
Diana Greenwald, an assistant professor at City College:
I’m sorry to hear about your dad’s experience. I was strip searched at Ben Gurion at the end of June because I do research in the West Bank. It was infuriating and upsetting. Of course, these kinds of degradations happen to Palestinians all the time.
IMHO, it is completely inappropriate to tweet this thread without so much as an acknowledgement of what Israel’s bigoted policies mean for all the non-Jews — especially Palestinians and those with Muslim names.
Gilad Halpern of Haaretz wrote:
Shocking experience but it’s good that it happened. I just hope that now Koplow Sr will either disengage from Israel or actively campaign against it.
Koplow responded: “I assure you that he will do neither, and I’m glad that he won’t. The only way out of this as far as I’m concerned is constructive engagement.” (He did not explain what that means.)
Thanks to Dave Reed.