Israel alleges “security reasons” to deport those who show solidarity with Palestine

{Em português} {Another English version was published by Mondoweiss and Al-Haq}
{In Hebrew, translated and published by Zo HaDerech, the Communist Party of Israel’s newspaper}

Messages on the walls and on the bunks declare: “for each International Solidarity Movement you deport back home, ten more will come!” Reading these phrases written with tooth paste or even food – this is how the hours went by in an Israeli facility of the Ministry of Interior Population, Immigration and Borders Authority (PIBA), where me and so many others before and after me were taken to wait for deportation. After hours of interrogation at the International Airport Ben Gurion, in Tel-Aviv, we were declared banned for 10 years, for “security reasons” – with no further explanation. We are threats.

By Moara Crivelente

Interior of the vehicle transporting to Ministry of Interior Population, Immigration and Borders Authority center. (Photo: Moara Crivelente)

Interior of the vehicle in which people about to be deported are taken to the
PIBA facility and back to the airport. Photo: Moara Crivelente

The Israeli policy of deporting activists who show solidarity with the Palestinian cause for the end of the occupation is no news. In 2003, for instance, eight members of the International Solidarity Movement, all European and North-American, were deported because they were protesting against the confiscation of Palestinian land for the construction of the Israeli wall near Jenin, in the occupied West Bank, or because they were moving roadblocks near Nablus, to draw attention to the obstacles to Palestinian movement in their own territories.

In 2011, about two hundred activists were detained and deported when they arrived at the airport. A news article of the Israeli paper Haaretz dated July, 2011, informs that a group of 25 people who were “suspected of being pro-Palestinian activists” would have their entries denied.

Besides them, 69 others had already been questioned those days and their fate was deportation. Israel’s Ministry of Transport had also delivered air companies a list with the names of 342 other people who were not supposed to be allowed boarding the planes. Haaretz’s 2011 article says that “Israel has thus far been successful in preventing the entry of 200 passengers wishing to come to Israel as part of the Welcome to Palestine campaign, which had organized a ‘fly-in’ to the Middle East this weekend for solidarity visits in the Palestinian territories.”

This is only a part of the Israeli tactics of persecuting any demonstration of solidarity with the Palestinians. The academic campaigns and the movement for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions have been the most visible targets. There is also persecution of Israeli human rights organizations and a soldiers’ network which has decided to give testimonies about the Army’s arbitrariness in occupied Palestine – Breaking the Silence.

There are also numerous cases of Palestinians deported by Israel since the beginning of the military occupation. From 1967 to 1992, according to B’Tselem, Israel has deported 1,522 Palestinians from their own territories. In 2002, 32 people were deported from the West Bank to the Gaza Strip for “administrative reasons”, with no charges against the deportees of without their defenses being heard.

Deporting solidarity for “security reasons”

During the seven hours waiting at the airport, I was repeatedly questioned. Right in the first time, a pair working with the security services told me that it was decided: I was about to be deported, unless – said the one who played the role of the understanding – I cooperate.

To “cooperate” meant tell them about every corner in Palestine where I had been in previous visits and every person I had met. They almost insisted I said that I saw Palestinian protesters throwing stones against soldiers in the demonstrations they said I was – which they supposedly knew already because of the pictures the soldiers took. They also asked me for my cellphone’s password. I was calm and answered their questions until then – I told them that my purpose was to take a course on International Law in Ramallah with the organization Al-Haq and that I am also a PhD student researching on the matter – but I refused giving them my password or contacts.

That was an opportunity for the security services to gather names and Palestinian “culprits”. In 2015, Gary Spedding, a British activist, went through something similar. The security authorities copied the messages and contacts from his phone and he was deported, accused of possibly causing tumult if he was allowed in, due to his messages in social networks.

I had a few other interactions with agents who addressed me through orders, taking me from one room to another, to the borders’ services where they took my picture and collected my fingerprints, then to the room where they searched my luggage and my body, and then to another room where I waited – and this I only understood later, since no one gave me information – for the transportation to the facility where I was detained. It was a new order: “get in the car”. I was alone with two agents; I sat on the back seat of a van with windows and the driver’s cabin blocked by metal plaques.

At the facility I finally got information about my flight back, which would leave in nine hours. There I met an Australian young woman who had been waiting for four days and would only leave in the fifth. They gave us a phone call, food, 10 minutes at the yard and a door locked from the outside. We waited. There was a time when we were nine people in that room turned into a cell, which had five bunk beds. Most were women from Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia and Uzbekistan that planned tourism in Israel and Palestine but whose entry was denied.

The Australian woman was another threat: she had dared to participate in a protest in a previous visit, in Bil’in, where I also had been. There, a popular committee struggles against the Israeli occupation which is manifested in the village by detentions, repression and the wall engulfing a part of the agricultural lands – not without resistance, which was partly victorious, since the wall’s course had to be slightly diverted. The committee’s own coordination, Abdallah Abu Rahma, who was already imprisoned before, is waiting for a new trial, for new accusations.

From the detention center I was taken by car directly to the airplane’s door. An agent escorted me inside the aircraft and delivered my documents – which had been in their possession the whole time – to the flight attendant.

Brazilians do not need visas to visit Israel neither do Israelis need visas to visit Brazil. However, I doubt that a sum of deportations would be balanced between the two countries. Let alone for political reasons. In 2015, two other Brazilians from Palestinian families were denied entry when they were in a solidarity visit, part of a group of social movements coming from the World Social Forum in Tunis. They were also banned from returning.

Coming back is not a feasible option for the next 10 years – or until the Palestinians can finally control their own borders, or pending a “special permit” from Israel’s Embassy. If the experience results in an appeal, it is for the end of the Israeli occupation. After all, this is the target: Solidarity with the Palestinian people and the struggle for a free Palestine.

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