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Border agents tell Jewish American 'the IDF doesn't want you in Israel'

Julie Weinberg-Connors, who is in the process of making ‘aliya,’ or immigrating to Israel as a Jew under the Law of Return, was told that they were being deported because of the army’s objections over their visits to the West Bank. They were eventually let in.

Illustrative photo of passport control at Israel's Ben-Gurion Airport. (Photo by Rakoon)

Illustrative photo of passport control at Israel’s Ben-Gurion Airport. (Photo by Rakoon)

Jewish-American Julie Weinberg-Connors was denied entry to Israel Wednesday night and told that “the [IDF] does not want you in Israel,” where Weinberg-Connors holds residency and is in the process of immigrating under Israel’s Law of Return.

Border Control agents eventually reversed course and allowed Weinberg-Connors, 23, into the country after media outlets, including +972 Magazine, and several members of Knesset asked the Interior Ministry and Israeli army about the denial.

Weinberg-Connors was meant to start yeshiva studies at the Pardes Institute on Thursday.

According to Attorney Leora Bechor, authorities had already flagged and questioned Weinberg-Connors about their political activity and affiliations before arriving back in Israel on Wednesday, where the American citizen has been living already for a year. (Weinberg-Connors prefers they/them pronouns.)

“They already knew that they wanted to deny her [entry] and they just had to find a reason,” Bechor told +972 Magazine, noting that Weinberg-Connors was flagged for questioning before border control authorities had a chance to ask her any questions. “It was clear their plan was to make sure she did not enter.”

Bechor, who was on the phone with Weinberg-Connors during parts of the detention and interrogation, said she heard a border control agent tell her client, “the Civil Administration does not want you in Israel.” The Civil Administration is the Israeli military body that administers the occupation of the Palestinian territories. The army, however, does not have the authority to determine who may enter Israel.

The denial of entry form given to Weinberg-Connors said they were being deported back to the United States for illegal immigration considerations. Weinberg-Connors was asked about visiting Khan al-Ahmar, a Palestinian village under imminent threat of forced displacement and demolition. Ultimately, they were allowed to enter after signing a document agreeing not to visit the West Bank.

Weinberg-Connors is in Israel on an A1 visa, a temporary residency status granted to people who the state has decided are eligible for citizenship under the Law of Return, or in other words — Jews.

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Israel’s “Law of Return” grants almost automatic citizenship to anyone with one or more Jewish grandparent, irrespective of whether they can trace heritage or have family ties to Israel. Palestinian refugees who were born, or whose parents or grandparents were born in Israel, are prohibited from immigrating to Israel.

Prior to the “Jewish Nation-State Law,” which passed earlier this year, the Law of Return was one of a small number laws on the books that explicitly grants certain rights only to Jews. Most other discriminatory laws do so without specifying a specific religious or ethnic group that is granted certain rights or privileges that are denied to others.

Denial of entry has become more common for foreigners — including Jews — visiting Israel in recent months, particularly those critical of Israeli policy vis-a-vis the Palestinians. Palestinians, Arabs, and non-Jews have been systematically denied entry to Israel over their politics and identity alike for years.

“This is the first case, to the best of my knowledge, of a person who was seeking to make aliyah who has been denied entry while they are actually in the process of having their aliyah application processed,” said Bechor.

Weinberg-Connors moved to Israel last September and flew back to the United States in June for the summer, according to Bechor. Weinberg-Connors was interested in becoming an Israeli citizen and has a pending aliya application. It was in the context of the aliya application that Weinberg-Connors was first asked about their political affiliations and activism and past visits to the West Bank.

Israeli citizens are not allowed to enter Palestinian-controlled cities in the occupied territories without military approval, but this restriction does not apply to non-citizens like Weinberg-Connors.

Weinberg-Connors signed the form agreeing not to enter the West Bank under duress, Bechor, the attorney, said, “because they told her if you do not sign the form we are not going to let you in.”

“It showed that there’s zero protections under the law so long as your political beliefs don’t match the consensus, you don’t have a place in Israel even if the law says that you do,” said Bechor.

Weinberg-Connors tried to present border control agents all of the aliya paperworkbut the border agents were not interested in seeing it, or in the fact that they had an A1 visa, said Bechor.

“She had a valid visa that they revoked. It is not just that she is an American who is coming on a visit, and they denied her entry – they revoked the visa that she has, temporary residency, without giving her any due process,” she added.

A spokesperson for the Population and Immigration Authority issued the following statement in response to a query about the Weinberg-Connors’ case:

The case concerns an American citizen who arrived to Ben-Gurion Airport in the evening, and after questioning her, it became clear that she was planning to stay in areas administered by the Palestinian Authority without the necessary approval from the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT). Upon checking with relevant security personnel, a conclusive recommendation was given not to approve her entry, but, after she committed to apply for the required permit in case she does plan on visiting the territories, her entry was approved.

A spokesperson for the COGAT, of the Israeli army, had not issued a formal response at the time of publication. It will be added here if and when it is received.

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    COMMENTS

    1. Josh

      Who are we to judge? Is there any political context? Did this woman provide an imminent threat? Was she espousing hatred, and festering hatred?

      Reply to Comment
      • john

        the political context is: they expressed interest in visiting the occupied territories and were suspected of being a ‘traitorous jew’, per itshak’s description, based on similar assumptions.
        i understand the term ‘traitor’ here to mean, slightly sympathetic to palestinians – which is the first step on a slippery slope to espousing and festering.

        Reply to Comment
    2. john

      the civil administration now operating under the assumption their occupation stretches from the river to the sea.

      Reply to Comment
    3. itshak Gordine

      I thank our authorities for protecting us from traitorous Jews who take advantage of our hospitality to slander the State of Israel and create disorder in Judea and Samaria

      Reply to Comment
      • Ben

        Look, Itshak Gordine Halevy is obviously a true believer, a fanatic, an extremist but a not uncommon one in Israel’s currently skewed political landscape. Nothing will never change his mind. Or the mind of thousands like him. Does anyone now think outside forceful intervention is not the only way to solve “the conflict”? People are in massive denial if they think the Israelis will solve it on their own.

        Reply to Comment
        • itshak Gordine

          Ben, have you ever wondered if the problem did not come from you rather than millions of Israelis who democratically chose the right according to their conscience and interests? Who are you to give us lessons from abroad?

          Reply to Comment
          • john

            this ‘who are you to judge’ attitude is bullshit of the smelliest sort. you’re online persona itshak is drenched in disavowal of jews, militant hatred of a people you’ve professed not to care about (asking nothing except that they should disappear).
            it’s only a lesson if you’re prepared to learn, otherwise it’s an opinion you disagree with, and need your government to protect you from, snowflake.

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            Halevy, now many times do we have to go over Tomer Persico’s distinction between tyranny-of-the-majority “popular democracy” (Feiglinism) and genuine democracy, liberal democracy? (See: “A ‘truly’ Jewish democracy: On the ideology of Likud’s Moshe Feiglin,” December 17, 2012.)

            Itshak Gordine Halevy is fueled by this high-octane mass narcissistic tribal delusion* from another age harbored by 79% of right wing Israelis and 56% of Israeli Jews ==>

            79 Percent of Right-wingers Believe Jews Are the Chosen People. Are You for Real?
            Whereas belief in God is a private matter, the belief in a chosen people provides the outlines of policy that explains a great deal about Israel’s actions. When they say that they are the chosen people, it reveals their psychosis
            Gideon Levy
            Sep 15, 2018
            https://www.haaretz.com/opinion/.premium-79-percent-of-right-wingers-believe-jews-are-the-chosen-people-are-you-for-real-1.6471893

            Yes, you read that right. And this in a modern nation state in 2018. We’ve got quite a situation here. STILL think Israelis can end their 51-year military dictatorship, their Lordship, over Palestinians without outside force?

            *If you thought—and I was of course taught this from my childhood—that this is more of a “calling,” that there is a more benign, spiritual, modest, humbling, aspirational, discipline-obeying, submitting-to-G-d meaning to this “chosen people” thing, the Israeli right wing and center has managed in 50 years to utterly erase that more modest and subtle connotation and replace it with frank arrogance and frank supremacism (Judeofascism is not too strong a word in this latter half of the second decade of the 21st century. Just look at Halevy. Or Lewis from Afula.)

            Reply to Comment
    4. Jake Hawkes

      Be sure and tell Weinberg-Connors that her American citizenship is revoked and that we don’t want her back.

      Any American that wants to become part of the illegal immoral occupation of Palestine is a criminal and we no longer want that type of person in the US.

      If you support criminals, you are a criminal.

      Reply to Comment
      • Carmen

        Jake, you don’t speak for america or israel or the moon and the stars above.

        Reply to Comment
    5. carmen

      They are very afraid of people like Julie and there are a lot. Maybe someday israel will find its soul and do the right thing – repent and sin no more!

      Reply to Comment