Appreciate this article? +972 depends on your support -- click here to help us keep going

Analysis News

Testimony: One filmmaker's struggle against deportation at Ben Gurion Airport

‘As soon as I got my passport stamped, the Airport Authority employee demanded I sign a commitment not to enter the occupied Palestinian territories. The document stated that should I breach this ‘order,’ I could be deported and not allowed back into Israel for another 10 years. I refused to sign it…the document was torn in front of my face, and my entrance to Israel was denied.’

By Dáša Raimanová

My name is Dáša Raimanová. I am a filmmaker. At the end of August, I was meant to join a grassroots organization operating in the Palestinian territories to create a documentary about food sources in Palestine, emphasizing new ideas like slow food, women’s cooperatives and ecological farms.

I arrived in Israel on Friday, August 31. At the passport control counter at the Ben Gurion Airport, I was asked about the purpose of my visit. I presented an official invitation letter from my NGO, stating the aim of my visit. The person from the counter called someone to take me away for further questioning.

Three different interrogators from the Israeli Airport Authority asked me the same questions over and over again: where will I stay, what is the work of the NGO, how many films have I made, what were they about, and so on. After several hours, I finally received an Israeli visa. As soon as I got my passport stamped, the Airport Authority employee demanded I sign a commitment not to enter the occupied Palestinian territories. The document stated that should I breach this “order,” I could be deported and not allowed back into Israel for another 10 years. I refused to sign it, as my work was to be focused on West Bank Palestinians. It sparked anger, and the document was torn in front of my face, and my entrance to Israel was denied.

I was then taken away to another Airport Authority office, and requested to “pose” for a picture. I refused and demanded to speak with a person in charge. A female Airport Authority officer, who seemed to be responsible for my case and was one of three interrogators, came to deal with me. I asked her why my entry was denied and in response, she accused me of lying. I requested more information. She answered that “they” do not need to explain me anything, as anyone can print an invitation on letterhead, stamp it and sign it. None of the several people dealing with me explained to me who were or what was their position.

Two young women from airport security took me into another room, where they strip-searched me and went through all of my bags. Another man came to pick me up. I asked where was he taking me, he answered we were going to a place where I could shower, rest and wait for my flight back. I soon found myself in a cell in a deportation center near the airport.

I contacted my family, and my father immediately started to pressure the Slovakian embassy in Tel Aviv to intervene on my behalf. The Slovak consul came to visit me on Friday evening. After I explained I was going to Palestine, he told me that he would not do anything for me. His assistant asked me my age. When I responded that I am 30, she asked me why I was “running up against a wall” and suggested that I leave to go back home and find some other project in a different part of the world.

The next day, at the detention center, I met many disappointed people, and heard many more upsetting stories. There was a Jewish-American teacher, denied entry because she visited Palestinian territories in the past “too many times.” There was an older Russian woman who had come to visit her brother for the first time after not having seen him for 20 years; her body was bruised and she barely could move. She told me she was beaten by 10 women from airport security, and accused of being a terrorist. Plenty of people there where migrant workers. Many had lived in Israel for years, some were there with children.

Despite encouragement from my family, who regularly called, I was losing hope of entering.

Luckily, the NGO, along with my family, arranged for a lawyer who appeared on Saturday night.  He proposed two options: either to go back and fight the case from London, or resist the deportation and go through the court system in Israel. The second option, I was told, could mean being locked up in the detention center for another two weeks. My deportation was already scheduled for Sunday afternoon. This meant there was not enough time to get a court injunction against my deportation. The lawyer told me that I had legal right to resist the first deportation, and the immigration authorities could not physically force me to board the plane.

I opted for the second option. I resisted the deportation, which caused me to be labeled “dangerous.” Starting Sunday, I was locked up in an isolated cell with 24h CCTV. Depending on the mood of the guards, I was allowed to get out for a cigarette and chat briefly with other detainees.

Luckily, I did not have to wait two weeks for the court. The first hearing took place just two days later. The judge ruled that the immigration authorities had no basis for denying my entry into Israel. The decision on whether I could enter Palestinian territories would be made the following day.

On Tuesday, during the hearing, the judge was ready to let me go without any further requirements. Nonetheless, the prosecutor asked to call the Ministry of Interior and let them decide if they agreed to do so. Under pressure from the Ministry of Interior, the court ordered me to get a special permit from COGAT (Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories) to enter the territories.

So, after five days in a detention center I was finally able to pack my things and leave through the gates of Terminal 3 of Ben Gurion Airport. The day after being freed, I received an update from my lawyer, with written document from COGAT, stating that as a foreigner, I do not need any permit to travel to Palestinian territories.

All in all it was quite an Israeli welcome. As the detention center’s guards put it while driving me to the airport (why did the drive you to the airport? You mean from the court?) after being released: “First time in Israel? A bit of a different experience, no?”

Dáša Raimanová is an aspiring director and director of photography interested in making political documentaries as well as fiction with social and political themes. She regularly co-organizes events, such as Temporary Autonomous Art and Femme Fatale, as well as exhibitions, cinema, cabaret and café nights within the squatting culture of London.

For additional original analysis and breaking news, visit +972 Magazine's Facebook page or follow us on Twitter. Our newsletter features a comprehensive round-up of the week's events. Sign up here.

View article: AAA
Share article
Print article
  • COMMENTS

    1. Palestinian

      You are a threat Dáša,anybody who tries to help or even document the Israeli state terrorism is a “national” threat.I hope you enjoy your stay in Palestine.

      Reply to Comment
    2. the other joe

      wow. who wants to bet me that you have hours of delays on the way out again?

      Reply to Comment
    3. Obsidian

      @Dasa

      “I could be deported and not allowed back into Israel for another 10 years. I refused to sign it”

      The operative words here are ‘could be deported’. The document did not say ‘would be deported’.

      You should have signed it and gotten on with your plans.

      You made a bad choice.

      Reply to Comment
      • This article is about that August incident. It’s in the first line: “At the end of August, I was meant to join a grassroots organization operating in the Palestinian territories to create a documentary about food sources in Palestine…”

        With regard to your first comment, are you suggesting that Dáša should have lied?

        Reply to Comment
      • Dasa

        Dear Obsidian,
        It is the same text and same story. Sorry for not having 3000 Euros to pay for the lawyer. I am not trying to ear money on this case, my dear! And I am not discussing if it was a good or a bad choice, I think it is my choice at the end and my life. And just a remark the Paypal account was set up by my friends who were supporting me and know me for a long time. So I think we do not need to discuss this anymore.

        Reply to Comment
    4. R. Soran

      Business as usual. Unpleasant, but not illegal. Happy end.

      Reply to Comment
    5. If COGAT said that, as a foreigner, you needed no permit to travel to Palestinian territories, then the paper you were asked to sign should never be presented to another foreigner after being approved for entry into Israel. But I suspect it will be. Appeals probably act as a release from decision on the ground without changing procedure for those decisions, because potential danger is the default beginning. You have to pay attorney fees now, so you pay the correction cost of State error. Which is a signal that reducing traffic to the Territories is the de facto goal.

      Reply to Comment
    6. Piotr Berman

      I think that there is no coordination between courts and airport security, they are mutually independent and I suspect with low regard for each other.

      In particular, executive/legislative branch in Israel has a rather cavalier attitude to the law, and harassing people is often viewed as the patriotic duty. This is not the first report of improvising a declaration to be signed. They have no right to make such demands, and they know it, but in Israeli Hebrew it means a different thing than in other countries.

      It would be interesting to know what are the experiences of visitors to Iran. My only knowledge is reading on-line report by a bicyclist who was touring Asia with friends and getting visas on the way. Some countries were more difficult than other, Iran was not a problem (but his American friend did have a problem and had to fly to Turkmenistan to join the others). Like in many “backward” cultures, people believe in hospitality.

      Reply to Comment
      • Piotr: “They have no right to make such demands, and they know it, but in Israeli Hebrew it means a different thing than in other countries.” : If you visit this page again and read this, could you explain this more, for someone without a knowledge of Hebrew?

        You also said: “I think that there is no coordination between courts and airport security, they are mutually independent and I suspect with low regard for each other.

        In particular,executive/legislative branch in Israel has a rather cavalier attitude to the law, and harassing people is often viewed as the patriotic duty.”

        This is why I say Israel is in a slow motion constitutional crisis. I understand executive defined security has often trumped the courts and law, but, ironically, as security improves, the courts will want to fight back–rightly saying, in my view, that the State has come to presume too much. This means the High Court will have to find a way to push back. When it finally does, and I do think it only a matter of time, your country will have a full constitutional crisis. This is a way that security and occupation effect internal Israeli law: the executive and legislative functions come to belittle the judicial, thinking they always can. I am of the firm belief that they ultimately cannot.

        Reply to Comment
    7. The Trespasser

      Greg,
      ” When it finally does, and I do think it only a matter of time, your country will have a full constitutional crisis.”

      Such crisis won’t happen until all security issues are resolved.
      However since it is highly unlikely that one day the Palestinians will accept the reality of Jewish State, thus allowing for own county, such crisis is rather unlikely to happen.

      p.s. Technically, there is no occupation – it takes at least two independent states where one occupies another. Palestinians have refused the very chance to be lawfully occupied. Funny.

      Reply to Comment
      • No occupation? I guess if you say it enough God will grant it.

        Your view of security is absolute subordinance. Long term security will require autonomy of the other. Rights formation can begin in Israel proper. There will come a time when the courts begin to question the security excuse used so generally. This does not require an unoccupied people to agree to your definitions so that they can become occupied so that you can release them from occupation after they agree with more of your defintions.

        Reply to Comment
    8. Alexandre Weinberger

      What a blessing to have a free democracy protect your rights in the face of officials trying to deny you your rights in the name of national security.
      Israel, a light unto the nations!

      Reply to Comment
    9. Yoav

      Please focus your attentions on parts of the world with real humitarian disasters and human rights issues such as Syria, Egypt,Iran, North Korea etc. And report back to us here on how you got on how the democratic legal process worked at those airports.

      Reply to Comment

    LEAVE A COMMENT

    Name (Required)
    Mail (Required)
    Website
    Free text

© 2010 - 2014 +972 Magazine
Follow Us
Credits

+972 is an independent, blog-based web magazine. It was launched in August 2010, resulting from a merger of a number of popular English-language blogs dealing with life and politics in Israel and Palestine.

Website empowered by RSVP

Illustrations: Eran Mendel