“Denying entry to or, worse, deporting people from a country because they are or were in their past critical of its governmental policies is a classic feature of authoritarian regimes. Israel contends to be a liberal democracy, but Omar’s case clearly shows that the government is persecuting people on political grounds.”
— Michael Sfard, Shakir’s attorney.
An Israeli court issued an interim injunction on Wednesday temporarily preventing Israel’s Interior Ministry from deporting Omar Shakir, the Israel and Palestine director at Human Rights Watch.
Shakir, a U.S. citizen, had his work permit revoked this month based on a recent amendment to the country’s immigration laws aimed at fighting supporters of the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement.
This is the first time that Israel is applying the law against a person already inside the country; in previous instances, BDS activists seeking to enter the country have been blocked. If Shakir is expelled, critics say, it places Israel in a highly undesirable group of nations that have banned human rights activists.
“My interrogation in Tel Aviv made it clear that I was banned from entering Israel because of my work in the U.S. on behalf of Palestinian rights. No government is immune from criticism for its human rights record. The abusive treatment Vince Warren and I received at Ben Gurion airport ironically illustrates how the state of Israel refuses to respect the political and civil rights of its own citizens, of Palestinians, and of human rights defenders globally.”
— Professor Franke
Vincent Warren, executive director of the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), and Katherine Franke, chair of CCR’s board and Sulzbacher Professor of Law, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at Columbia University, were detained Sunday, April 29, for 14 hours and interrogated at Ben Gurion International Airport, then denied entry into Israel and deported, arriving back in New York early Monday morning. Warren and Franke were questioned about their political association with human rights groups that have been critical of Israel’s human rights record.
“The Israeli government denied us entry, apparently because it feared letting in people who might challenge its policies. This is something that we should neither accept nor condone from a country that calls itself a democracy,” Warren said. “Our trip sought to explore the intersection of Black and Brown people’s experiences in the U.S. with the situation of Palestinians, and Israel could not have made that connection clearer.”
“The decision not to let him into the country was made for a series of reasons in connection to his activity in the BDS movement and his promotion of boycotts against Israel.”
— Israeli Strategic Affairs Ministry statement
France requested that elected officials be permitted to enter Israel and the Palestinian territories, its Foreign Ministry said Tuesday, a day after Israel prevented the mayor of a Paris suburb from entering because of his support for the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement.
A spokesperson for the ministry said Patrice Leclerc’s planned visit was part of attempts to supervise implementation of international programs in the Palestinian territories.
Israel’s Interior Ministry said that Leclerc, who is mayor of Gennevilliers, was blocked from entering Israel through Jordan, while the French ministry said Tuesday that he was detained for several hours on the Israel-Jordan border.
A person who suffered force labor, violence, rape and torture in his own country — is he not a refugee?
Someone who was persecuted only because of her religion and ethnic background — is she not a refugee?
A person forced to flee his home only because of his skin color — is he not a refugee?
Someone whose village was burned and her family members killed in front of her eyes — is she not a refugee?
And he who survived a genocide — is he not a refugee?
If these people are not considered refugees in Israel, than who is?
My name is Monim Harun, an asylum seeker from Sudan. I was born in a small village nested between mountains and forests, where we lived together as one big family. At a young age I was separated from my family and the people I loved most in the world when the militia forces attacked our village. They went through the village killing every man and boy in sight, but by a miracle I survived. My mother wanted me to live in a safer place and have the opportunity to study, so in 2001, at the age of 12, she sent me to the other side of the country, to the Blue Nile region of the Republic of Sudan.
When I left the village it felt bittersweet — leaving behind my mother and sisters, and the people I loved. But I knew that in doing so, I would be able to acquire new skills that would help me rebuild my community on my return. In the Blue Nile region I completed elementary through high school, and was accepted to Blue Nile University. I spent three years there studying toward a degree in electrical engineering — five years are required for the program. During those years I joined a student organization that fights against the rule of radical Islam in Sudan, and calls for a democratic, secular and liberal system of government. My involvement in social and political advocacy wound up placing my life in great danger, all the more so because my Fur ethnicity is one against which the Sudanese government has been perpetrating genocide.
Travel permit requests go unanswered for months, even for those seeking urgent medical care or to visit ailing relatives. Hundreds of traders have been blocked and slapped with travel bans that curtail their ability to do business. Absurd new restrictions were introduced, preventing students and aid workers from traveling with laptops.
Over the past few months, many unlikely characters seem to have started to care that Gaza is facing a humanitarian crisis. Except it is not exactly compassion for the people facing the crisis driving the discourse as much as a warning call about the dangers lurking in their desperation.
Israel’s chief of staff, decorated generals, and even its decidedly not-dovish education minister, Naftali Bennett, have said that when Gaza suffers, Israelis are endangered. America is also concerned. In a “brainstorming session” held at the White House last Tuesday with representatives of the international community, US President Donald Trump stated that the worsening conditions in Gaza “require immediate attention.” If it weren’t so tragic, it might be comical considering that these are the same characters pulling the strings and deciding Gaza’s fate.
“The committee’s decision constitutes a harsh blow to my freedom of political activity as an elected official. Without funding from the group extending the invitation, I will of course not be able to travel, due to the large travel expense and the round of lectures that is planned. This is activity that is a fundamental and integral part of my role as an opposition Knesset member.”
— Yousef Jabareen, Israeli Knesset member
For the first time, the Knesset Ethics Committee has decided to bar an MK [Member of the Knesset] from traveling abroad on a trip subsidized by an organization that supports a boycott of Israel.
Knesset member Yousef Jabareen of the predominantly Arab Joint List party was informed on Tuesday by committee chairman Yitzhak Vaknin (Shas) that the committee had decided to refuse his request to fly abroad for a series of lectures in April to be funded by Jewish Voice for Peace. The group appears on a Strategic Affairs Ministry list of groups supporting BDS, the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement against Israel.
“Unless and until LO rectifies the shameful boycott resolution and puts an end to its discriminating practices against the only Jewish state, its leaders should not expect getting a business as usual treatment from Israel,”
— Raphael Schutz, Israeli ambassador to Norway
Mohammed Malik, a Norwegian citizen with Pakistani heritage, had joined a trade union study tour organized by the Palestine Committee of Norway, but was stopped for questioning by officials at Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion Airport on 17 Feb. While all other members of the delegation were allowed to continue on their trip, Malik spent the night in detention before being deported and issued a lifetime entry ban.
During Malik’s interrogation, Israeli agents discovered that he was a member of the Norwegian Food and Allied Workers Union. He was questioned about his union affiliation and the Norwegian Confederation of Trade Unions’ (LO) policy toward Israel.
“My name was obviously the reason I was taken aside in passport control,” Malik told a LO-affiliated newspaper. “But they deported me because I am a [trade] unionist. I was thrown out because I am affiliated with the LO.”
After my father died in Jordan in October, it was so important for me to visit my extended family in the city of Jenin, to mourn his death with them. Unfortunately, I was prevented from doing so by the Israeli government.
Whether or not the Israeli government agrees with my work — and, of course, I know it doesn’t — I still should have been able to take part in those most human of activities: mourning my father and celebrating his life.
My father, Azzam Jarrar, died last month. He was a proud Palestinian, a refugee, a civil engineer, a farmer and an entrepreneur. He was also my friend and mentor. He taught me the multiplication tables on our way to school in Saudi Arabia. He taught me how to question authority when we lived in Iraq. He helped me finish my master’s degree when I lived in Jordan. Above all, though, he was the gateway to my Palestinian roots and identity.
My dad fled his home with his family in 1967, when Israeli soldiers invaded and occupied the West Bank. He went first to Jordan and then to Iraq, where I was born. I was the first Jarrar to be born east of the Jordan River since our family was established on Palestinian land centuries ago.
“The U.S. refugee program was created in the aftermath of World War II. At that time, we rightly rejected antisemitic ideology and embraced our role as a beacon of hope and freedom for those in need. Since that time, US refugee protection has never been a partisan issue, nor a political one. Presidents from both parties have long recognized that the U.S. refugee admissions program is essential to global stability and our reputation as a leader on the world stage.”
— U.S. Representatives John Conyers and Zoe Lofgren
Donald Trump intends to cap America’s annual refugee admissions at a historic low, marking the administration’s latest crackdown on immigrants from some of the world’s most vulnerable groups.
A U.S. state department report seen by the Guardian shows that the administration has briefed Congress it will admit just 45,000 refugees in 2018, the lowest number requested by any president in over three decades and less than half the 110,000 cap issued in the last year of the Obama administration.
For me, the issue is not about Rabbi Wise herself, nor is it about the BDS movement. While the image of a rabbi being prevented from boarding an airplane to Israel is disturbing, and the Jewish community’s hysteria about the BDS movement is frustrating, the incident reflects something even more distressing: the suppression of dissent in our community.
For a community that prides itself on a tradition that honors varied and opposing ideas and upholds a strong commitment to debate, I am disgusted by its refusal to tolerate divergent voices.
In March, the Israeli Knesset passed a law that denies entry to foreigners who support the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, or BDS.
At the time, the law felt so insidious because it introduced a political litmus test designed to exclude those who object to Israel’s policies. It served to stifle legitimate political debate. But it was all so theoretical.
Until last month, that is, when Rabbi Alissa Shira Wise, who was part of an interfaith delegation that had planned to meet with Israeli and Palestinian peace activists, was banned at Washington’s Dulles Airport. I was stunned.