Five U.S. citizens were denied entry to Israel after 18 hours of being detained and interrogated by Israeli border police regarding their backgrounds, political tendencies and personal relationships, the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation said this week.
The incident, which occurred July 17 but was not publicly revealed until Tuesday, is the latest case of U.S. citizens being profiled and denied entry to Israel based on the color of their skin and their background in pro-Palestine activism.
“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,” a 26-year old U.S. citizen of South Asian descent, who asked not to be named, said in a press release.
“In fact, I was told that they did not owe me an explanation, and that any rights I had as a U.S. 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."
The young U.S. activists were attempting to enter Israel and go to Palestine to observe the conflict on the ground and gain a better understanding of the conditions Palestinians live under amid the Israeli occupation.
“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,” the statement added.
Commenting on the incident, Ahmad said she was “outraged” at what Israel did to her and her colleagues, noting such actions were unlawful.
“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,” she said in the press release.
Describing their experience at the Israeli airport as “terrifying," the statement added that female delegates who were detained were “asked irrelevant and intrusive questions about their personal relationships, and were held for as long as 18 hours.”
After long hours in filthy cells and interrogations for merely attempting to enter a country with which the United States has a visa waiver program, all five delegates were put on flights back to the U.S. Some were also slapped with travel bans that bar them from entering Israel or the occupied Palestinian territories for the next 10 years.
The delegates’ own government was also of no help, as calls to the U.S. Consulate's Citizen Services resulted in no assistance. “Some officials made comments indicating they had no power over the treatment of U.S. citizens held at the airport despite visa agreements between Israel and the United States,” the statement said.
The repeated abuse of U.S. citizens of Palestinian or Middle Eastern origins has prompted the U.S. State Department to issue a travel warning for Israel that reads: "Some U.S. 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."