The detention and interrogation of high-profile figures such as Peter Beinart and Reza Aslan at Israeli entry points is forcing liberal American Jews to reckon with what Israel is becoming.
Over the last month, the Israeli and international media reported several incidents involving Shin Bet agents at ports of entry to Israel detaining prominent Jewish Americans for lengthy, aggressive questioning about their political views.
Meyer Koplow, chair of Brandeis University’s Board of Trustees and a prominent donor to Israeli causes, was detained before his flight out of Ben Gurion Airport and questioned because security agents found in his suitcase a brochure about Palestine.
Moriel Rothman-Zecher, an Israeli citizen who lives in the U.S., was detained and questioned at the airport and warned against his continued involvement with left-wing Israeli organizations.
And this past Sunday, Jewish American journalist Peter Beinart was questioned at Ben Gurion Airport upon arrival; as he writes in his description of the incident, he was with his wife and children, all of whom came to attend a family bat mitzvah. Beinart’s story lit up the internet, since he is a prominent writer who is a well-known voice in liberal Zionist circles.
The loud outrage in liberal Jewish circles over Zionist Jews having been questioned in a hostile manner about their politics is derived from the dawning understanding that the Netanyahu government is slowly but surely redefining Israel itself. Once it was the national home of the Jewish people, but now it is becoming — or has become — an authoritarian nationalist fortress state for Jews who share its anti-democratic views. Jews who see things differently will be tolerated as long as they refrain from expressing dissent.
Israel has, as the prominent American academic Reza Aslan writes today, become a police state. He should know: two weeks ago, while crossing into Israel from Jordan with his wife and children, he was separated from his family and taken aside for questioning. He describes the experience in a series of tweets, which he published after reading Peter Beinart’s essay about having been detained.
The Shin Bet lady, who already knew everything about me and my family’s journey around the world, began with “You think because you’re a public person I can’t do whatever I want with you?”
I was floored. This is how interrogations begin in police states.
— Reza Aslan (@rezaaslan) August 14, 2018