Intimidation In Tel Aviv

Apparently things have not changed in the Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv since my several trips to Israel/Palestine in the 1990s and early 2000s.  Traveling through that airport “last week for a climate justice meeting, World Council of Churches (WCC) staff and partners were detained or deported in a manner that WCC general secretary Rev. Dr. Olav Fykes Tveit terms both unprecedented and intolerable.” Continuing on the WCC website, he writes:

“Members of the WCC’s Working Group on Climate Change from as many as 13 countries reported that they were held for hours of interrogation, including tough intimidation and detention in prison-like conditions for up to three days — a very difficult experience…We believe that it is also in the interest of the government of Israel to address these very unpleasant incidents for future visitors to this country, and to prevent their recurrence,” said Tveit and added, “We are ready to meet and discuss these issues.”

Readers of this blog and my Facebook posts will know that I have a deep commitment to Israel and therefore reserve the right to criticize her government just as I criticize my own, from time to time. I reject the charge that any such criticism is somehow Anti Semitic. I have cast my lot with J Street, the pro Israel, pro peace lobby in Washington DC and consider their positions on most issues related to the Middle East my own.

I well remember receiving the “good cop, bad cop” treatment on various trips through Tel Aviv. A smiling young Israeli woman officer would ask a series of questions while examining my luggage. And then I would be hustled off to a small room where the same questions would be asked in a rough and bullying manner by a team of soldiers, obviously trying to find some inconsistencies in my reasons for travel, etc. They were both rude and abusive.

I am aware that Israel has all kinds of reasons to be hyper vigilant and to maintain high security arrangements. As I’ve written elsewhere, “Just because you’re paranoid, doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you!” But there is no excuse for belligerent and disrespectful treatment of passengers, be they tourists or pilgrims to the Holy Land.

The United States and other countries also have stringent security arrangements in airports, but I have always found the TSA agents to be civil, if not always kind. The state of Israel enjoys a kind of mindless support in this country, but it is not so around the world.

Just as the Palestinians would garner much more support in this country if they would renounce violence and recognize the state of Israel, so would Israel increase its standing around the world by simply humane treatment of those of us who love her and want only the best for her.

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