For years, Israel has collected personal information about travellers to the area between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea. And security officials intimidate travellers who are deemed problematic.
It used to be that officials would rifle through people’s notebooks and journals. Even Israeli Jews involved in Palestinian solidarity projects are subject to similar interrogations at border crossings. According to activists’ accounts, Israeli officials have been forthright in explaining such interrogations: intimation and data collection.
The desire to obtain seemingly innocuous personal information is a subtle but profound demonstration of one of the country’s most insecure realities. With a powerful army, with a nuclear arsenal, and with concrete barriers protecting the country on every side, Israel remains terrified of its actions being challenged on intellectual grounds.
Reviewing email conversations demonstrates an almost hysterical approach – in today’s reality of instant communication, it is a sad reminder of Israel’s propaganda efforts in the face of increasingly organised civil-society campaigns that link Israel’s treatment of Palestinians to apartheid South Africa.
Instead of trawling for information relating to the security of Israeli citizens, emails involving activists such as Ms Tamari reveal information about the intellectual process that movements such as the global Israeli boycott campaign are formulating.
As the discussion about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict transforms – from the narrative of the peace process to the struggle for human and civil rights – Israeli authorities are increasingly playing catch up. Nowhere is this trend more profound than on social media networks where Israeli military spokespeople are losing the war of ideas.
The Associated Press reporter Matt Lee recently asked a US State Department official if there would be a major change to the US travel warnings regardings Israel, one of which warns that Israeli security officials may scrutinise visitors’ personal emails. As long as people continue to oppose Israel’s 45-year occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, as well as its systematic discrimination against Palestinian citizens inside Israel, the necessity of such a travel warning does not seem like a ridiculous afterthought. No matter its military prowess, Israel will probably remain in perpetual fear of free thought.