Israel Interrogates American Jew at Ben Gurion Airport

Published August 14th, 2018 - 09:39 GMT

A leading Jewish-American journalist, who supports a pro-Palestine boycott campaign against Israel, says he has been detained at Tel Aviv’s airport and questioned about his political activities.

In an article published in The Forward magazine on Monday, Peter Beinart said that he had been taken to a separate room at the Ben Gurion airport and interrogated for about an hour upon his arrival for a family visit on Sunday.

He also noted that an unnamed airport security official had asked him about a protest he had attended previously in the West Bank city of al-Khalil (Hebron) against a lack of basic rights for Palestinians.

The interrogation was “depressing,” he said.

“The session ended when my interrogator asked me, point blank, if I was planning to attend another protest. I answered truthfully: No. With that I was sent back to the holding room.”

Beinart, a contributing editor at The Atlantic magazine and a CNN political commentator, stressed that his detention further proved how Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been “emboldened” by US President Donald Trump.

“My detention is one more, not particularly significant, example of how Trump has emboldened Netanyahu. An Israeli government led by men who respect neither liberal democracy nor the rule of law now knows it has kindred spirits in Washington. A week before my detention, something similar happened to my friend and former colleague Simone Zimmerman,” he said.

Earlier this month, Zimmerman, an anti-occupation Jewish American activist, was held by Israeli authorities at the border between Egypt and the occupied territories and interrogated about her political opinions.

Beinart further touched on the recently-approved Israeli legislation that declares the occupied lands exclusively “the nation-state of the Jewish people," saying, “Israel, like America, is getting uglier.”

Meanwhile, US-based pro-Israel group J Street denounced the American journalist’s detention and urged Israel to end its policy of “political interrogations” of those criticizing the regime.

“Slippery slope has turned into a dark and dangerous abyss when every citizen who dares criticize the Netanyahu government can find himself interrogated over his opinions,” Yael Patir, the Israel Director at J Street, said, adding that if the regime “wants some sort of connection to the vast majority of US Jewry..., the political interrogations ought to stop entirely.”

Israel has stepped up its clampdown on groups and individuals deemed to be supporting the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, a Palestinian-led international campaign launched more than a decade ago with the aim of ending Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territories.

The movement also pursues equal rights for Palestinians by exerting pressure on the Israeli regime via economic and cultural boycotts.

Netanyahu calls it ‘a mistake’

Meanwhile, the Israeli premier said the detention of the American columnist was an “administrative mistake.”

“Prime Minister Netanyahu heard of Mr. Beinart’s questioning at Ben Gurion airport and immediately spoke with Israel’s security forces to inquire how this happened,” Netanyahu’s office said in a statement.

Israel’s Shin Bet spy service also apologized, saying the detention stemmed from a “judgement error” by its officers.

Beinart tweeted that he would accept an apology only when Netanyahu “apologizes to all the Palestinians.”

This article has been adapted from its original source. 

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