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Exclusive: 'Political contract' required to enter Israel?

A Swedish tourist trying to enter Israel was made to sign a “contract” promising she won’t get in touch with “pro-Palestinian” organisations, and acknowledging she’ll get deported if she “gets caught doing even one of these things.” Meanwhile, Prime Minister’s Office released a letter that will be handed to deported Flytilla activists: Go to Syria. 

Check this out. This is a “contract” that a Swedish citizen was required to sign upon entering Israel via the Eilat land crossing:

Please, stop snickering at the “nine-tens,” the “passpot,” and the bizarre grammatical construct in the first sentence. This is quite serious. The person in question told +972:

I’ve been in East Jerusalem on and off for six months now, visiting friends. Since I am here on a tourist visa, I have to leave the country every three months and renew my visa at the border. No problem, until this time when me and a friend made an Easter trip to Jordan and planned to get a new visa stamp in my passport on our way back. I’ll go back to Sweden next week again, so I just need a visa for my last days here.

When we got to the Israeli section of the border crossing – that one between Aqaba and Eilat – we were asked to sit down and wait a moment while they kept my passport. Then I was invited into an office and was questioned about my religion, if I had contact with any religious organizations here, what I do during the day, how much money I have got to spend and where I got it, what I do in Sweden and so on. Then we had to wait again, not knowing what would happen. After 4 hours and 20 minutes, I was asked to sign this contract and got back my passport with visa stamp in which the expiration date (normally three months later) was corrected to April 19, which is when I have my plane ticket home. Then we could finally enter Israel again.

They retained the original “contract” at the border control, and mine is only a copy. I don’t know what consequences I could expect if I would break it. Personally, I am pleased that I was let in and can spend one last week in Jerusalem. I am five months pregnant and hardly look like any security risk. As far as I know, I haven’t done anything illegal during my stay here.

When reached for comment by my colleague Haggai Matar, Population and Immigration Authority spokeswoman Sabine Haddad said : “The purpose behind the document was to make sure the lady doesn’t visit friction areas. Nevertheless, we intend to check the issue and the document itself.”

Considering the inane phrasing, spelling errors and the fact the entire letter was custom-printed for the woman personally (as opposed to a form where her departure date would have been written in), I’ll go on to venture a highly charitable guess this is the local initiative of staff at this particular crossing, rather than a policy. The initiative might actually belong to the very same “Meital Yahud”, who appears as the other signatory to the contract and might be anxious to have an alibi (a rather weak one, mind you) in case the person she let in goes on to do something as dangerous, as, um, speak the word “Palestine”, or something. It’s still morbidly fascinating to see the Flytilla getting our authorities to make themselves look like complete buffoons even before a single activist actually boarded a plane.

Update 18:30 And as if to vindicate that last sentence, Netanyahu’s spokesman Ofir Gendelman tweeted the official letter Flytilla activists will be handed on arrival.  The grammar is a little better. The content – judge for yourselves.

…Going back to the political “contract” document, immigration and human rights lawyer Yadin Elam told +972:

“This is the first time I have seen such a form but as someone who deals with the Ministry Of Interior on a daily basis, nothing can surprise me anymore. Legally, she is very fortunate that it is written so badly. If she “cannot” be a member of a pro-Palestinian organization then I guess she is not…”

As for the question of responsibility, Elam suggests:

…it does seems like a private initiative of a low-level clerk at the Ministry of the Interior but one should be worried why a low-level clerk has the powers to make such decisions. We all remember that Israel blamed immigration officials for the decision to deny entry to Noam Chomsky nearly two years ago. Would it be too much to hope that after such a mistake, the ministry would make sure that private initiatives would not take place? and if the didn’t, can we still call it a private initiative?

Anyway, at least they didn’t summarily execute the visitor’s laptop this time. Things are looking up.

 

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  • COMMENTS

    1. Johnny Barber

      I was required to hand write my own contract to enter Israel through Ben Gurion in 2006. It had similar restrictions, and if i recall, i had to swear i was not going to travel in the West Bank, and i was made to promise that i would not interfere with any soldiers of the IDF. When i asked what the paper was for, i was told it was so i could be deported if i got stopped at a checkpoint in the West Bank.

      Reply to Comment
    2. Menil

      Notice that they say “pro-Palestinian” and not “anti-Israeli”. To them, it’s a zero-sum game.

      Reply to Comment
    3. the other joe

      Seems like simple intimidation to me. There is no law about foreigners travelling in the West Bank (although I believe such travel for Israelis is seriously frowned upon) and the Israelis can already expel anyone. I can’t see that this form really does anything more than attempt to rattle the passport holder.

      I’d be fascinated to know more about Johnny’s story and whether he really could have been expelled at a West Bank checkpoint. My experience was that soldiers at checkpoints took very little interest in my (obviously foreign) passport – though I have heard of people arriving at Allenby and getting their passports stamped to say that travel in the West Bank was only permitted and within Israel was not (which my inadequate knowledge of geography could not quite cope with).

      Reply to Comment
    4. I know two people who have received similar treatment. The first was a friend from Canada who is of Iraqi origin, and was made to sign a form declaring that she would only visit Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, and Eilat during her stay. (As she was coming to Bethlehem to visit me, this was a bit problematic.) The second was an American Jewish solidarity activist who was told that she would only be allowed entry if she did not enter Palestinian areas and had no contact with any sort of solidarity group. (She signed the form, and was in Beit Sahour barely three hours later.)
      .
      The restriction that might be placed on your movement (and the risk of immediate deportation) is the reason why so many people lie if they plan even to visit Palestinian areas, much less stay there for an extended period of time. It is this situation that gave birth to the Welcome to Palestine initative in the first place, which has participants landing at Ben-Gurion and simply being honest about where they want to go. The aim is to raise awareness of how tricky it can be to reach your destination if you’re open about it. The official letter issued in response shows that the authorities have completely missed the point. Either that or they’re determined to help the participants prove it…

      Reply to Comment
    5. Jeremy

      This letter is so true!
      You activists are supposed to help the world be a better place but all your attention is going to Israel and not the places where thousands are killed.
      The suffering of Palestinians is much lower than Syrians right now so why are you so focused at Israel???

      Reply to Comment
    6. Samuel 'Utoikamanu

      Sick minds behave like this!

      Reply to Comment
    7. Jeremy, should people who work to help the child heroin addicts on the streets of Kabul pack up and go away because the suffering of those children is not as bad as the suffering of famished AIDS orphans in Somalia? Do you think that the fact they don’t go to Somalia is a sign that they don’t care about Somali people?
      .
      It’s possible to care about more than one thing, but practically you cannot always give your time to more than one. One of my best friends works with Congolese refugees, mainly women who have suffered terrible violence. I admire what she does and I support her whole-heartedly in it, but she doesn’t expect me to join her in Africa. Nor do I expect her to join me in Bethlehem.
      .
      The Welcome to Palestine initative was born from the experiences of people who had friends and family in Palestine, but who found themselves having to lie about their destination when they wanted to visit. I myself have lied, because I was tired and airsick and in the mood to go to bed, not for a six-hour interrogation with six different people and the threat of deportation in the background. Many of the ‘flytilla’ activists have experience of this situation, because of friendships within Palestine, and this is why they protest – and this is how protest should be. If everybody responded personally to the injustices that they have personally encountered in their lives, there wouldn’t be nearly as much injustice in existence. Sadly a lot of us just decide there is nothing we can do in such situations, and pass on by.

      Reply to Comment
    8. janna

      Any word or speculation on the intersection between these entry contracts and the PA Only entry stamps?

      Reply to Comment
    9. Jack

      What it basically says:
      Dont engage with any palestinians.

      Reply to Comment
    10. This actually proves that Israel is no democracy -more like a police state or military junta. Now this should be publicised and Israeli tourism boycotted.

      Reply to Comment
    11. Well this letter is a primitive blackmailing. An undisclosed threat, an act of a violence. It is soo silly (primitive or kindergardenish) that I think it may be a forgery.

      Reply to Comment
    12. Casual Browser

      Just wonder: if they hate Israel and Jews so much why not to fly to Jordan and take a taxi to Bethlehem? One should ask them that. As far as I’m concern – Israel, as a sovereign state, has complete rights to ban bunch of thugs from entering their country when they feel there is threat  to their security. 

      Reply to Comment
    13. Ron

      @casual browser Who said anything about hating Israel or Jews? I was born in Israel and my mothers parents were Jewish, which idiotically makes me Jewish though in terms of faith and belief I am an atheist, which means I dislike all religions equally. However, having travelled to Israel several times, I have also been subjected to the most ridiculous questioning and hassle by Israeli authorities. Maybe because I have made it clear that I support the Palesinian struggle for freedom and equality. Which means that I am only anti-Israeli in the same way that I was anti-Apartheid in respect to South Africa. Playing the Jewish card in a political discussion is an old and often repeated trick on the part of pro-Zionists. The sooner people learn to separate religion and politics, the sooner they will be accepted as mature enough to engage in political discussion. Until such time, their input is not useful

      Reply to Comment
    14. Elda

      to casual browser.
      How stupid is it possible to be?? ” take a taxi from Jordan to Bethlehem” Why don`t you try yourself? Hi, man,please do not comment when you know nothing. There are two borders/ controls to pass between Jordan and Israel/( Bethlehem)

      Reply to Comment
    15. stas

      @ELDA you are right… because you will have more trouble passing through Jordan, you should protest the trouble Israel is making… How stupid are you?

      Reply to Comment
    16. joop jansen

      Zionism, Christian zionism and Jewish extremism and a few other nasty items making our world uninhabitable today!!! Fight against it! Free Palestine!

      Reply to Comment
    17. cadent

      Considering the fact that computers have SPELL CHECK!!!!!!!! I think that this is a hoax that Dimi ran with because it fits into his politics.

      Reply to Comment
    18. Dimi Reider

      Cadent, in that case the Interior Ministry confirmed to us the document is real.

      Reply to Comment
    19. Danny Wool

      I am convinced that this is a fake, not because of the typos and spelling errors in the English text, but in the official letterhead used. “Ministry of interior,” rather than “Ministry of Interior” (capital I).

      Reply to Comment
    20. Dimi Reider

      Danny, learn to read. The MOI spokeswoman confirmed to us the document was authentic.

      Reply to Comment
    21. caden

      The punctuation that is in the wrong place is also a give away. Dimi, may I respectfully ask that you identify who in the Israeli government confirmed this has an official government document. And what office he/she represents.

      Reply to Comment
    22. Dimi Reider

      Caden – as you can read in the post, the official in question is Population and Immigration Authority spokeswoman Sabine Haddad. And believe me, that’s far from the only official Israeli document written in appalling English.

      Reply to Comment
    23. caden

      Ok, your right, I’m wrong. Basically all this proves is that Jews are not has brilliant has the average Egyptian seems to think. ( controlling the world and all that )

      Reply to Comment
    24. “You are right… because you will have more trouble passing through Jordan, you should protest the trouble Israel is making… How stupid are you?”
      .
      Stas, the officials policing entry to the occupied West Bank on the Jordanian border are Israeli. This is part of what a military occupation involves: the occupying power determines who goes in and out, and when. I have crossed at King Hussein/Allenby before (the only crossing that West Bank Palestinians are permitted to use) and the questioning there is every bit as invasive as it is at Ben-Gurion – not only for entering the West Bank, but for leaving it as well. When I crossed with a friend last summer (someone who had never been to Palestine in his life) he was held for three hours and nearly barred from entry simply because he said he was going to Bethlehem. As he wasn’t with an organised tour group, the officials were suspicious. The friend in question is disabled and was visibly in pain throughout the whole process. It was an unpleasant experience for him, and it has put him off visiting again.

      Reply to Comment
    25. Black Bird

      Yeah CADEN, “has” brilliant… This comment actually confirms the authenticity of the letter.
      As far as Israel’s peace loving and tolerant nature is confirmed; they proved that by killing hundreds of Palestinians and those people on the Aid Flotilla.

      Reply to Comment
    26. george

      What nation on earth doesn’t have the right to determine who can enter its borders and under what conditions? And what nation on earth faces the unfounded and extreme hatred of the anti semites and self hating jews the way Israel does?

      A free, democratic Israel will do just fine; keeping out those who would destroy her is exactly what she should do; and for those Jew haters on this post, suggest you find a cause to salve your anti Judaism other than Israel – perhaps promoting the issuance of the Protocols of Zion to schoolchildren?

      Reply to Comment
    27. Nigma

      I was asked to reveal ‘names’ of my friends in Palestine and Israel after my last visit beginning of April at the airport. I gave them fake names, they didn’t seem to worry. It’s clearly brainwashed staff working at Ben.Gurion. All they do is repeat the questions that have been printed into their brains. They sound like an lp turning for ever on a record player. How poor!

      Reply to Comment
    28. nesma

      Can someone please provide a legitimate source of the contract?

      Reply to Comment
    29. Dimi Reider

      Define “legitimate source” there for a sec? Because we got the contract from one party involved in the incident, and had its veracity confirmed by the other party. Intrigued to hear what’s more legitimate than that.

      Reply to Comment
    30. sam

      Hello people!! I had to lie to the Jordanian officials that I am Muslim just to get into Jordan because my friend the day earlier said he was Jewish and was barred. Stop chastizing israel. The Jews are struggling to keep their existence against Nazi’s in headscarves. They have every right to make entry decisions. If you don’t like it try Syria!

      Reply to Comment
    31. The irony is that not even Hitler’s minions at the borders of Nazi Germany had such entry documents. We would be aware of it too from popular culture. Along with such things as stopping people for their papers, the old movies would have included such signings on entry, just to make the point about how different we are in the “free” (still?) world. Time to say, “Never again” and ask awkward questions.

      Reply to Comment
    32. [...] The video and the letter came to light the same weekend that an Israeli blogger, Dimi Reider, reported that Israeli immigrations officials asked a Swedish woman to sign a pledge promising not to get in touch with any pro-Palestinian organizations during her stay in Jerusalem. A copy of the document the woman was compelled to sign in exchange for a visa, called an “Obligation Form,” posted on the Israeli news blog +972. [...]

      Reply to Comment
    33. naomipaz

      As others have pointed out, the only saving grace to this document is that it is so poorly written. What is a pro-Palestinian organization? How does one know if one is speaking with a member of a pro-Palestinian organization? What activities do pro-Palestinian engage in which are subject to legal actions against the participant? Is the Universal Declaration of Human Rights a pro-Palestinian document? Is the United Nations Charter a pro-Palestinian document? The Universal Declaration of Human Rights includes the obligation of all signatories to teach its terms to all citizens and subjects in the jurisdiction of signatories: is teaching the Universal Declaration of Human Rights a pro-Palestinian activity?
      I could go on.

      May God Bless the Whole World – No Exceptions.

      Naomi Paz Greenberg.

      Reply to Comment
    34. Hisral Isheva

      Please see…

      iamthewitness.com

      Reply to Comment
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