Iranian-American scholar Reza Aslan tweeted Tuesday that he was detained and questioned for hours by Israel’s Security Agency, known as the Shin Bet, while he was crossing into Israel from Jordan two weeks ago.
According to Aslan Israeli officers threatened him saying things like “we can make it so you don’t see your kids for a long time,” and asking “you think because you’re a public person I can’t do whatever I want with you?”
Threats were issued after authorities demanded Aslan to write down the names of all Palestinian journalists, associates, and organizations he had met with.
Aslan decided to share his story after Jewish-American journalist Peter Beinart was detained for questioning at the Ben-Gurion International Airport. Beinart reported, "the (interrogation) session ended when my interrogator asked me, point blank if I was planning to attend another protest."
After retelling the story of his detention, Aslan denounced the tactic used by Israeli authorities as “classic police state trick. Iran has perfected it.” Aslan was asked if he thought Israel shouldn’t exist, to which he answered “that is absurd. I’m against the occupation, not Israel.”
At the end of his interrogation, he was warned not to talk to any Palestinians or “Israeli troublemakers”
The Shin Bet has admitted to having interrogated the best-selling author and scholar but denied having threatened him or having asked about his political opinions. The Israeli agency claims Aslan raised suspicion but without explaining how. Aslan was traveling with his wife, his 3-year-old and 6-year-old children, and elderly in-laws.
This is not the first time the Shin Bet denies the testimony provided by people interrogated by their officers. Earlier this month Jewish American anti-occupation activists Simone Zimmerman and Abby Kirschbaum of the organization 'If Not Now' were detained and questioned. Zimmerman said she was asked about her political stance and opinions on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
The Shin Bet admitted to having questioned them but denied having asked questions related to their political opinions.
Local newspaper Haaretz reported that “visitors from Muslim and Arab descent are often detained and questioned at Israel's border. Recently, many reports have emerged concerning the detention of Israelis and Jews who are critical of Israel at the borders or in the airport.”
Recent examples are the detention of Israeli peace activist Tanya Rubinstein, coordinator of the Coalition of Women for Peace, who was detained at Israel’s Ben Gurion Airport upon returning from Sweden, and the interrogation of Israeli citizen Moriel Rothman-Zecher over alleged links to the anti-occupation group of former Israeli soldiers Breaking the Silence.