This story, told in Mondoweiss, is precisely the reason Israel is increasingly isolated globally. Outrageous behaviour but sadly typical:
I am an American citizen. I went to American schools my entire life, graduated from an American university and work as an architect in New York City. Why was this happening to me? It all started with a simple question. “What is your father’s name?”
“Okay, please wait a few moments in the waiting room over there.”
Little did I know that my father’s Arab name would make me guilty until proven innocent. A “few moments” would turn into a 14-hour nightmare at Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv.
I was hoping they wouldn’t separate me from my friend Sasha, whom I was traveling with. We had been warned about possible interrogations and security checks but were reassured that since we were both young, female professionals from New York City with American passports, it wouldn’t be a problem to enter Israel. It was going be my third visit and Sasha’s first.
Sasha was called in to be interrogated by a bleach-blonde pregnant woman and was led into a small office to the left of our waiting room. Twenty minutes passed until Sasha came out, walking quickly back to her seat.
She attempted to reassure me. “It’s going to be fine. They just want to see if we’re lying about anything.” But she was obviously flustered.
Now it was my turn.
– – –
“Do you feel more Arab or more American?” she asked. I had answered the ten previous questions very calmly, but with this question I looked back at the security official confused and irritated. She couldn’t have been much older than me—her business attire and stern facial expressions did not mask her youth.
“I don’t know, I feel both. Why? Does this affect my ability to get in?”
She ignored my question. “Surely you must feel a little more Arab, you’ve lived in many Middle Eastern countries.”
I did not see the correlation. I have never felt the need to choose. “Yes I have but I also lived in the US for the past seven years, and was born there, so I feel both.” My response did nothing to convince her.
“Hm. Will you go to Al-Aqsa?”
“Will you go to Jewish sites as well?”
“Yes, why not? We want to see everything.”
“But you have been here two times already. Why are you coming now for the third time? You can go to Venezuela, to Mexico, to Canada. It is much closer to New York, and much less expensive!”
I realized the conversation was going nowhere. “Right, but I wanted to come back here again. Don’t you have tourists who come back more than once?”
“I’m asking the questions here,” she replied disgruntled.
“Okay, we are going to do something very interesting now!” Her face transformed from a harsh stare to a slight smirk. She proceeded to type “www.gmail.com” on her computer and then turned the keyboard toward me. “Log in,” she demanded.
“What? Really?” I was shocked.
I typed in my username and password in complete disbelief. She began her invasive search: “Israel,” “Palestine,” “West Bank,” “International Solidarity Movement.”
Looking back, I realize I shouldn’t have logged in. I should have known that nothing I did at this point would change my circumstances, and that this was an invasion of my privacy. Yet all the questions, the feeling that I had to defend myself for simply wanting to enter the country, and the unwavering eye contact of the security officers left me feeling like I had no choice. I was worried I would let Sasha down if I refused and that it would be the reason for both of our denials into the country.
She sifted through my inbox, reading every single email with those keywords. She read sentences out loud to her colleague, sarcastically reenacting and mocking old Google Chat conversations between Sasha and me about our future trip to Jerusalem. I squirmed in my seat.
Read the whole thing.
Such experiences are why deep pressure on Israel, as this article in yesterday’s Independent with the headline, “Israel is new South Africa as boycott calls increase” attests, will only increase:
Some of the world’s biggest stars – from Madonna to the Red Hot Chili Peppers – are being accused of putting profit before principle in a growing backlash against artists performing in Israel.
Campaigners angry at human rights abuses against the Palestinian people – symbolised by Israel’s policy of demolishing the homes of Palestinians and allowing Israeli settlers to take over their land – are demanding a boycott of Israeli venues in a campaign that echoes the 1980s protests against South Africa and the infamous venue Sun City.
Last week Madonna came under fire for her decision to perform in Israel to kick off her world tour last Thursday. “By performing in Israel, Madonna has consciously and shamefully lent her name to fig-leafing Israel’s occupation and apartheid and showed her obliviousness to human rights,” said Omar Barghouti of the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel.
Attempts by Madonna to deflect criticism by offering free tickets to local campaigners backfired, with a number rejecting the offer. Boycott from Within, an Israeli campaign group, accused the singer of “a blatant attempt at whitewashing Israeli crimes”. Mr Barghouti added: “As we’ve learned from the South African struggle for freedom, entertaining Israeli apartheid should never be mislabelled as singing for peace.” The star’s publicist did not respond to requests for comment.
Acts such as alleged war crimes during Israel’s 2008 invasion of Gaza and the 2010 killing of peace activists by Israeli commandos on an aid ship are fuelling the return of an anti-apartheid campaign on a scale not seen in a generation. Saeed Amireh, 21, a peace activist from Nilin in the West Bank, said: “We don’t have freedom of movement. They don’t want peace; they just want us to disappear. They are suppressing our very existence.”
Calls for a boycott are supported by hundreds of artists around the world, from the film director Ken Loach to former Pink Floyd frontman Roger Waters and the author Alice Walker. Artists such as Carlos Santana and Elvis Costello have cancelled shows after pressure from campaigners in recent years; Coldplay, U2 and Bruce Springsteen have declined invitations to play in Israel without supporting the boycott publicly. Paul McCartney, Elton John, Rihanna and Leonard Cohen are among those to have ignored calls not to appear there.
The Red Hot Chili Peppers, Lenny Kravitz and Guns N’ Roses plan to play in Israel this year, prompting the campaign group Artists Against Apartheid to appeal: “As was done in the case of South African apartheid, please join us now in the cultural boycott of Israel, and help stop entertaining apartheid.” The campaign has rattled the music industry, prompting a group of US-Israel entertainment executives to set up the Creative Community for Peace last year in an effort to counter the cultural boycott.
It is also troubling senior Israeli politicians: a law passed by the Knesset last year means that people who call for a boycott could be sued in court. The Israeli government has also set up a committee to look at how to compensate Israeli promoters in the cases of “politically motivated cancellations”.