If Israel can teach American liberals anything, it’s that they cannot afford to rest on their laurels. The case of Israel demonstrates that fear-mongering and tribalism can easily prop up an oppressive and racist regime for decades.
It is not uncommon for Israeli authorities to detain, interrogate and deport tourists of Arab or Palestinian descent, and those arriving through Israel to do Palestinian solidarity work. Jewish Americans, however, especially those engaged with mainstream community institutions, rarely face the types of humiliating treatment for which Israeli airport security has become notorious.
So it raised a small storm on Wednesday when a vice president of the New Israel Fund, a U.S.-based foundation that awards grants to a broad spectrum of Israeli civil society groups, was detained at Ben-Gurion Airport on her way into Israel.
Jennifer Gorovitz, who has worked in Jewish community service for much of her professional life, including for a decade as CEO of the San Francisco Jewish Federation, was interrogated at length for “national security reasons,” according to an NIF statement. Despite telling border security officers that she is a Jew and a Zionist who supports Israeli organizations and rejects the BDS movement, she was derided by officers in three grueling interrogations where they accused her, pejoratively, of “building the society of the Palestinians.”
“I was truly shocked that this place I love so much would turn me away at its gates,” she said. She was ultimately granted entry.
When I heard Gorovitz’s story, I was immediately reminded of another. Last week, Hina Shamsi, the top national security lawyer for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), was stopped on her way into the United States, en route from meetings relating to her work on behalf of victims of the CIA’s post-9/11 torture program. She was questioned about her work for the ACLU (“why would someone working for an organization with ‘American’ in its name be representing people who are not citizens?”) and about her Pakistani citizenship. (“Why would someone working for an organization with ‘American’ in its name have ‘this’ passport?”)
(Full disclosure: Hina is a colleague and a friend of mine, and +972 Magazine receives donor advised contributions via the NIF.)
It’s worth mentioning that neither story involves citizens of the countries they were trying to enter — Hina was a permanent U.S. resident (who, it so happens, was naturalized the day after the incident), and Jennifer is...Read More