Image ‘CopyLeft’ by Carlos Latuff
Image ‘CopyLeft’ by Carlos Latuff
Image ‘Copyleft’ by Carlos Latuff
Images ‘Copyleft’ by Carlos Latuff
Switzerland’s new immigration policy …
Switzerland has voted 50.3 percent in favor of limiting annual migration from the EU, thus ending the policy of free movement within the bloc that was established in 2002.
Full report HERE
Turkey’s new Internet restrictions ….
Turkey’s Family and Social Policy Ministry submitted a bill to parliament this week that would allow authorities to block specific websites and keep a record of users’ Internet activities for up to two years. This represents the latest attempt of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to curb web freedoms.
Full report HERE
‘THE NSA IS COMING TO TOWN’
TAKE ACTION NOW WHILE YOU STILL CAN!
These tweets by blogger Omar Ghraieb capture the despair felt by many of Gaza’s almost 1.7 million Palestinian residents as Israel’s blockade, compounded by Egypt’s intensifying crackdown, has brought the territory once more to the brink of catastrophe.
Since the 3 July military coup against Egypt’s elected president Muhammad Morsi, the military regime has destroyed almost all the vital underground supply tunnels under the Gaza-Egypt border.
This week, Egypt began demolishing houses along its side of its border with Gaza, a futile and criminal Israeli-style tactic, that is seen as a prelude to establishing a “buffer zone” to further isolate Gaza.
As a result of these and other Egyptian measures, supplies of some critical medicines have hit zero, the construction industry has collapsed, and the Rafah crossing, the only entry and exit for most Gazans, is frequently closed.
The population of Gaza still faces 12-hour daily blackouts due to Israel’s destruction of the electricity infrastructure, but even the relief provided by noisy and often dangerous portable generators is fading into darkness as fuel supplies run out.
A new report, “Slow Death; The Collective Punishment of Gaza has reached a Critical Stage,” from the human rights monitoring group Euro-Mid Observer, highlights the acute crisis that compounds the effects of the prolonged Israeli blockade.
The report is worth reading in full, but these ten facts about the impact of the blockade capture the scale of the mounting catastrophe and underscore the urgent need for pressure on Israel to end it and for Egypt to end its complicity.
Although it remains the occupying power, Israel declared Gaza a “hostile entity” in 2007 and its then Prime Minister Ehud Olmert declared, “We will not allow the opening of the crossings to Gaza and outside of Gaza to the extent that it will help them bring back life into a completely normal pace.”
These and other Israeli official statements quoted in the Euro-Mid report highlight that the catastrophe in Gaza is a calculated and intended effect of the siege, making it a war crime and collective punishment under international law.
Euro-Mid calls on the “international community,” to pressure Israel to end the blockade.
That call is right, but it is an unavoidable fact that the siege would not have lasted seven long years already without the complicity and support of the “international community” in the form of the United States and its allies, particularly the European Union and compliant Arab regimes.
The siege is collective punishment of Palestinians in Gaza, but it is also a collective crime.
White House spokesman says Turkish leader’s comments suggesting Israel is responsible for Egypt unrest are ‘offensive and wrong’; says reports that US is cutting military aid to Egypt ‘inaccurate’
The United States condemned comments by Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan accusing Israel of having a hand in the Egyptian military’s overthrow of president Mohamed Morsi, a White House spokesman said on Tuesday.
“We strongly condemn the statements that were made by Prime Minister Erdogan today. Suggesting that Israel is somehow responsible for recent events in Egypt is offensive, unsubstantiated, and wrong,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters in a briefing.
In Israel, an official in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office told AFP: “These comments by the Turkish prime minister are nonsense.”
Earlier on Tuesday, Erdogan told provincial leaders of his AK Party: “What do they say in Egypt? Democracy is not the ballot box. What is behind it? Israel. We have in our hands documentation.”
Also Tuesday, the White House said media reports that suggest the US cut off aid to Egypt are not accurate, adding that the Obama administration is still reviewing its options.
“That review has not concluded and … published reports to the contrary that assistance to Egypt has been cut off are not accurate,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters in a briefing.
Earnest also said that Egypt’s detention of Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohamed Badie was not in line with the standard that the United States would hope to uphold in protecting basic human rights.
The White House will hold a Cabinet-level meeting to discuss cutting some of $1.5 billion in US aid to Egypt.
Earnest confirmed that a National Security Council meeting of top officials will take place Tuesday. Cabinet members such as Secretary of State John Kerry will participate.
Up to now, the administration has insisted that it has taken no final decision on halting aid to Egypt since the military’s July overthrow of Mohamed Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood-led government and an intensifying crackdown on Islamist opponents.
Both officials said Egypt aid would be the focus of the meeting. One official said a decision was likely on cutting some elements of US economic and military support.
Reuters, AFP and AP contributed to this report
After The Guardian and The Washington Post revealed the astonishing scope of some of the NSA’s surveillance activities, some people claimed that Americans wouldn’t care. But Oscar-winning director Oliver Stone doesn’t accept that.
In the video below, produced by the ACLU, Stone discusses the NSA spying program, recalling a disastrous legacy of unchecked government abuse of power. He reflects on the terrible consequences of runaway surveillance during the 1960s and 1970s, when intelligence services exploited fears of external threats to the United States to enjoy a carte blanche for their illegal activities. “We did not pass the Fourth Amendment to protect those with something to hide,” Stone tells us. We passed that amendment “because we know all too well the cost of an unaccountable government.”
Now is a critical time in our nation’s history for all Americans to stand up for our civil liberties, Stone says – by asking representatives in Congress to roll back the surveillance state.
Section 215 of the Patriot Act and Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act, passed in the wake of the September 11 attacks, have drastically eroded our Fourth Amendment rights. These statutes allow the government to access our most sensitive information without meaningful judicial oversight.
“I won’t stand idly by while our civil liberties are eaten by the NSA surveillance machine,” Stone says. “You shouldn’t either.” You can join Stone and the ACLU in demanding an end to the surveillance state, by signing a petition calling on Congress to repeal these problematic sections of the Patriot Act and the FAA. The time to act is now.
Click HERE to sign petition
A Palestinian woman waits at the closed Rafah crossing with Egypt in the southern Gaza Strip on 5 July.
Palestinians trying to return home to the Gaza Strip via Cairo airport are being deported by Egyptian authorities to the countries they flew in from, at their own expense.
The Rafah crossing between Egypt and Gaza, which is a six hour drive from Cairo airport, has been closed indefinitely, ever since the Egyptian army overthrew elected PresidentMuhammad Morsi on 3 July after days of street protests.
In recent days, militant groups in Egypt’s Sinai peninsula have repeatedly attacked Egyptian army posts and checkpoints.
Yousef M. Aljamal, a writer and occasional Electronic Intifada contributor, was among those deported. Aljamal was returning home to Gaza from New Zealand, where heparticipated in the recent Conference on Palestine in Auckland.
Aljamal tweeted about his deportation from Cairo, back to the Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur, where he had stopped in order to obtain an Egyptian visa.
He reported seeing other Palestinians sent back to Algeria, Jordan, Tunisia and Canada, among other countries.
Even before the latest crisis in Egypt, conditions at the crossing have remained difficult and unpredictable, with “Mubarak-era cruelty” remaining the norm.
The deportation of Palestinians comes as campaigns against Palestinians are intensifying in Egypt.
Anti-Palestinian campaigns in the Egyptian media are not new, as Joseph Massad wrote last August. They have included outlandish claims that shortages of basic supplies including fuel and medicines for Egypt’s 83 million people are caused by supplies being sent to Gaza’s 1.7 million Palestinians.
The volume has however increased amid the ongoing crisis. Rumors circulated by Egyptian media and social media accuse Hamas – without evidence – of sending operatives to support the deposed Muslim Brotherhood government.
Such rumors have led to false accusations and deportations of Palestinians living in Egypt,as the Egyptian journalist Fahmy Howeidy reported in a 7 July article in Egypt’s Shorouk News.
Howeidy concludes his powerful piece with these observations:
Who is the party that is keen to terrorize and humiliate Palestinians and fabricate charges against them in Egypt? And what is its interest in doing this? And why is there no clear political stance to stop these humiliations? My information is that there are elements within the Palestinian security apparatus still working against the government in the Gaza Strip and trying to malign it and bring it down.
There are also elements within the Egyptian security services – whose arms reach into the media – who despise Palestinians and sneer at resistance, and who cannot bear to hear the name of Hamas because of their relations with the Muslim Brotherhood. And these parties have rebounded lately, for well-known reasons. This leads to ask who they represent and to what extent they are connected with the deep state whose elements do not cease for even a day from spreading hatred between Egyptians and Palestinians in violation of all national and ethical norms.
Syrians, as well as Palestinians, have also been targeted by such rumors and campaigns.
As Egypt slips further into political chaos, Palestinians stranded abroad are hoping they can get home without falling victim to the increasingly poisonous atmosphere.
30-year-old Edward Snowden, a former National Security Agency contractor who embarrassed the US government by revealing details of vast Internet and phone surveillance programs, has requested asylum from Ecuador.(Photo: scmp.com) *
The clear message from the Ecuadorean government on Thursday is that it would not be bullied or ‘blackmailed’ by the US government over the possible asylum of Edward Snowden.
At a government press conference held in Quito, officials said the US was employing international economic “blackmail” in its attempts to obtain NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, but that such threats would not work.
Snowden, who remains inside an airport terminal in Russia, has become a flashpoint between Ecuador and the US after confirmation that the 30 year-old intelligence contractor has sought asylum in the Latin American country.
On Wednesday, led by Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ), the US threatened to deny Ecuador preferential trade status if it accepted Snowden’s application for political asylum after he leaked a trove of classified documents that revealed details about the NSA’s vast surveillance programs in the US and abroad.
“Our government will not reward countries for bad behavior,” Menendez said in a statement from Washington. “If Snowden is granted asylum in Ecuador, I will lead the effort to prevent the renewal of Ecuador’s duty-free access under GSP and will also make sure there is no chance for renewal of the Andean Trade Promotion and Drug Eradication Act. Trade preferences are a privilege granted to nations, not a right.”
But on Thursday, Ecuador nullified the US threats—and made it clear it would not be intimidated by the global superpower—by proactively cancelling the trade agreement.
“Ecuador unilaterally and irrevocably renounces these preferential customs tariff rights,” government spokesman Fernando Alvarado said at the news conference.
“Ecuador will not accept pressures or threats from anyone, and it does not traffic in its values or allow them to be subjugated to mercantile interests,” he said.
Alvarado, who called threats from the US over trade arrangements a form of “blackmail,” said Ecuador’s government would not only willingly accept the loss of approximately $23 million in trade benefits, but in addition would offer a gift, in the form of an aid package of the same amount, that would be directed to provide human rights training in the United States.
According to reports, Ecuador indicated the money could be used to help the US address its recent problem with torture, illegal executions, and the attacks on the privacy of its citizens.
As Agence France-Presse reports, the trade agreement between Ecuador goes back decades:
The United States is Ecuador’s main trade partner, buying 40 percent of the Andean nation’s exports, or the equivalent of $9 billion per year.
The preferential trade program was set to expire on July 31 unless the US Congress renewed it. The arrangement, which dates back to the early 1990s, originally benefited four Andean nations and Ecuador was the last country still participating in it.
And Reuters adds:
Never shy of taking on the West, the pugnacious Correa last year granted asylum to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to help him avoid extradition from Great Britain to Sweden, where he is wanted for questioning over sexual assault accusations.
The 50-year-old U.S.-trained economist won a landslide re-election in February on generous state spending to improve infrastructure and health services, and his Alianza Pais party holds a majority in the legislature.
Ecuadorean officials said Washington was unfairly using the Andean Trade Promotion and Drug Eradication Act, which provides customs benefits in exchange for efforts to fight the drug trade, as a political weapon.
The program was set to expire at the end of this month.
June 27, 2013 at 09:46 (Action Alert, Civil Liberties, Civil Rights, Collective Punishment, DesertPeace Exclusive, Dictatorship, Ethnic Cleansing, Illegal Evictions, International Solidarity, Israel, Occupation, Palestine, zionist harassment)
The Prawer Plan is an attack on Bedouin People, and on universal human rights
photo: Oren Ziv/Activestills.org
So we’re asking you to send a message to Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren: we are appalled by the Prawer Plan, and all it represents.
From the years I lived in Israel, I remember visiting “unrecognized” Bedouin villages in the Negev that had been destroyed multiple times.I remember children and grandmothers sitting near the rubble of their homes, and especially the young man who had been called to serve in the Israeli Army – on the very day his home had been destroyed.
The Prawer Plan threatens that level of destruction on an unprecedented scale.
It is appalling that transfer based on nothing more than ethnic identity is even under consideration.
And if our government is going to offer unconditional support to Israel, we need to send that message to Ambassador Oren, Israel’s official representative to the U.S.
Send email to ….
By Anita Kumar
WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama offered a strong defense Friday of his administration’s newly disclosed programs to monitor phone and Internet activity, insisting that secret surveillance helps prevent terrorist attacks.
Obama described the uproar this week over the programs as “hype” and sought to ensure Americans that Big Brother is not watching their every move.
“In the abstract, you can complain about Big Brother and how this is a potential . . . program run amok, but when you actually look at the details, then I think we’ve struck the right balance,” he said.
Obama made the unscheduled 14-minute remarks Friday after speaking about health care in San Jose, Calif., as he responded for the first time to the growing outrage over the surveillance in recent days. It was yet another event on another day that Obama found overshadowed by a string of controversies in his administration’s second term.
Recent newspaper reports revealed that the National Security Agency is collecting telephone records of tens of millions of Verizon customers and tapping directly into the central servers of nine companies including Microsoft, Yahoo, Google and Facebook.
Obama said the programs represented “modest encroachments on privacy” that do not involve listening to people’s calls and do not involve reading the emails of U.S. citizens and U.S. residents. “Nobody is listening to your telephone calls,” he assured repeatedly.
Obama stressed that the programs are “under very strict supervision by all three branches of government,” including Congress and the courts.
“What you’ve got is two programs that were originally authorized by Congress, have been repeatedly authorized by Congress, bipartisan majorities have approved them, Congress is continually briefed on how these are conducted, there are a whole range of safeguards involved, and federal judges are overseeing the entire program throughout,” he said.
Obama acknowledged that he had been initially skeptical about the programs but changed his mind after his administration evaluated them and expanded some of the safeguards.
While in the Senate, Obama advocated for changes to the Patriot Act that would have required the government to convince a judge that the records it is seeking have some connection to a suspected terrorist or spy. As president, he signed off on them, continuing many of the programs his Republican predecessor, George W. Bush, began after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
“I think it’s interesting that there are some folks on the left, but also some folks on the right who are now worried about it who weren’t very worried about it when it was a Republican president,” Obama said.
Obama’s administration has engaged in an unprecedented crackdown on classified national security leaks. On Friday, he condemned the leaks that led to the disclosure of the two secret programs.
“If, in fact, this information ends up just being dumped out willy-nilly without regard to risks to the program, risks to the people involved, in some cases on other leaks risks to personnel in very dangerous situations, then it’s very hard for us to be as effective in protecting the American people,” Obama said.
Since the beginning of 2013, Israel has forbidden tourists from the United States and other countries to enter the territories under Palestinian Authority control without a military entry permit – but it has not explained the application process to them.
Haaretz has learned of a recent case where clerics from the United States had to sign a declaration at the Ben-Gurion International Airport, promising not to enter Area A without permits from the Coordinator of Activities in the Territories.
The clerics signed the declaration, but representatives of the Population, Immigration and Borders Authority did not explain to them how to get the permits.
Not every tourist who is planning to visit the West Bank is required to sign the declaration, and no criteria have been published for how people are selected to do so.
The American clerics, who spoke with Haaretz on condition of anonymity, were sent by their church to work with Christian communities in East Jerusalem and the West Bank. As a result of the declaration they signed and their inability to decipher the procedure for obtaining the permit, they have been unable to meet with the members of Christian communities in West Bank cities or visit holy places, like the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem.
One of the signers, who turned to the United States Consulate in Jerusalem for help, told Haaretz that the consulate employees are unaware of the existence of the declaration.
The text of the English-language version of the document reads:
“1. I understand that this permit is granted me for entry and visitation within Israel only, and it has been explained to me that I am unable to enter the areas under the control of the Palestinian Authority without advance authorization from the Territory Actions Coordinator and I agree to act in accordance with these regulations.
“2. I understand that in the event that I enter any area under the control of the Palestinian Authority without the appropriate authorization all relevant legal actions will be taken against me, including deportation and denial of entry into Israel for a period of up to ten years.”
In the Hebrew version, there is also a clear statement that unauthorized entry to the areas under the control of the Palestinian Authority is a transgression of the law. This is omitted from the English version.
The English version does not use the official and common English title “Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories,” but translates the Hebrew as “Territory Actions Coordinator,” raising doubts as to whether the coordinator’s office has seen the form.
The spokeswoman for the Population, Immigration and Borders Authority, Sabine Haddad, wrote to Haaretz that the Entry into Israel Law authorizes the interior minister to decide on the entry of foreigners to the State of Israel, but in the case of Judea and Samaria, the Israel Defense Forces chief of general staff makes the determination – with a permit from the coordinator’s office required by security legislation.
“When a tourist/foreign national arrives at the international border crossings and it is believed that he wants to enter Judea and Samaria, he should be informed [of the procedure] and asked for his promise to receive a permit from the coordinator’s office before his entry – a permit that constitutes an essential condition [of entry to the Palestinian Authority controlled areas],” said Haddad.
Haddad did not reply to Haaretz’s request for explanation of the pertinent clauses of the law, nor did she provide Haaretz with information about the department in the coordinator’s office from which to request the permit. On the English website of the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories – a military unit that carries out and implements civilian policy in the territories – including the part dealing with ties with international organizations, there is no mention of the existence of such a procedure. In reply to an inquiry by Haaretz, the spokesman for the coordinator’s office said the matter of the procedure and the form is being examined.
About seven years ago, there was a report of a similar declaration that tourists were required to sign, but the practice was discontinued and renewed only at the beginning of this year. Several years ago, the Interior Ministry also began to limit the freedom of movement of tourists with work and family ties in the West Bank and to prevent their entry into Israel by means of a permit with the stamp “For the territories of Judea and Samaria only.”
Attorney Adi Lustigman turned Haaretz’s attention to a legal decision from August 2010 by Jerusalem District Court Judge Moshe Yoed Hacohen, which dealt with the appeal she filed against preventing the entry into Israel of an American citizen. Hacohen ruled that even according to the Oslo Accords, which the Interior Ministry occasionally relies on to explain restrictions on the movement of tourists, citizens of countries that have diplomatic ties with Israel need only an entry permit for Israel and a valid passport to enter Palestinian Authority territories. They are not required to have visiting permits from the Palestinian Authority, which are granted with the approval of the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (as is required of citizens of countries that do not have diplomatic ties with Israel, and citizens from Arab countries such as Egypt and Jordan).
Lustigman believes the policy behind the declaration is illegal because it discriminates between foreign citizens whose destination is the settlements and those whose destination is Palestinian areas. The form itself, Lustigman says, “is not legal because it was formulated for an improper purpose – isolating the occupied territories – and in an improper manner. It makes the assumption that people who arrive in Israel as tourists, as clerics and for other purposes want to act in contradiction to the law, which may not even have been explained to them clearly.
“There is no reason to threaten foreign citizens, to turn them into suspects and to make them sign, as a condition for entering Israel, a form whose wording and content are unclear … If there really is such a procedure, it should be publicized in a simple, clear and accessible manner, and instead of handing out a threatening sheet of paper, they should hand out a paper containing an explanation and procedures for making the request. Because the Interior Ministry does not do so, and as far as I know neither does the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, it seems that there is no operative procedure, nor any procedure for submitting a request. We are left only with a prohibition, which, as we have mentioned, is invalid.”
The spokesperson for the U.S. Consulate did not answer Haaretz’s question as to whether Israel has informed the American authorities about the restriction and the obligation to sign, and did not explain the viewpoint of the U.S. Department of State on the issue.
Palestinians have globally touted an array of rights that Israel systematically denies. There is the right of return, the right of freedom of movement, the right to water, the right to education, the right to enter(not to be confused with refugees’ right to return) and so on.
But the right to receive visitors, or lack thereof? This is the most recent addition. The prohibition on freely receiving foreign visitors is as disturbing as it is shocking, especially for a country that claims to be the only beacon of democracy in the Middle East.
Yes, you read correctly. Israel is threatening to refuse to allow Palestinians living in the occupied Palestinian territory to receive visitors from abroad. We are not talking here about visitors such as the 5 million Palestinian refugees whom Israel has refused to allow to return to their homes after being expelled by force and fear when Israel was founded in 1948. Rather, the issue now is that foreigners who desire to visit the occupied Palestinian territory are being denied entry into Israel.
Remember, there is no other way to get to the Palestinian territory of the West Bank and East Jerusalem, which is under military occupation by Israel, except by passing through Israeli-controlled points of entry such as Ben Gurion airport in Tel Aviv or one of Israel’s sea ports or land crossings. The entry point to the Gaza Strip from the West Bank requires passage through Israel as well.
So, more than 300 international activists plan to arrive in Tel Aviv during the week of 8 July at the invitation of 30 Palestinian civil society organisations, to participate in an initiative named “Welcome to Palestine“. Delegations from France, Great Britain, Belgium, Sweden, Germany, the USA, Japan and several African countries are expected.
Upon arrival at Ben Gurion airport, the invited guests, all from countries that have diplomatic relations with Israel, will make no secret of their intent to go to the occupied Palestinian territory. This nonviolent act, a civil society tsunami of sorts, only comes after Israel’s restriction of movement and access to and from Palestine for Palestinians and foreigners has exhausted all established channels that carry the responsibility to uphold international law first and their domestic laws second.
The greatest inaction has come from the US state department, even though it has put on record, multiple times, the fact that Israel is discriminating at its borders against US citizens.
It is also worth noting that the 1951 Israel friendship, commerce and navigation treaty explicitly states: “There shall be freedom of transit through the territories of each Party by the routes most convenient for international transit …” and persons “in transit shall be exempt from … unreasonable charges and requirements; and shall be free from unnecessary delays and restrictions.” So much for respecting signed agreements.
Israel, as a state and previously as a Zionist movement, has gone to every extreme to fragment and dispossess the Palestinian people. It has had accomplices every step of the way, starting with Great Britain and continuing to this very day with the US and the flock of UN member states that act more like parakeets to the US than sovereign states when it comes to Palestine.
Well, the game of inaction is coming to an end. When states fail, people take over. It is these people, like those coming to Palestine this week, or those attempting to reach the Israeli-blockaded Gaza Strip by sea, or those living in Palestine and resisting the occupation day in and day out, who will prove to historians once again that history is made of real people who have a keen sense of humanity and the courage to sacrifice.
Israel’s Shin Bet security service has been demanding access to personal email accounts of visiting tourists with Arab names, according to the testimony of three U.S. citizens who were interrogated at Ben Gurion Airport and subsequently refused entry into Israel in May.
Najwa Doughman, a 25-year-old architect from New York, landed in Israel on May 26. Doughman, who had already visited Israel three times in the past, planned to tour the country for ten days with a friend, Sasha Al-Sarabi, 24, who was visiting Israel for the first time. Both women were born to Palestinian families who were expelled from Haifa and Akko in 1948.
Around 5 P.M., approximately an hour after landing, Doughman’s interrogation began. She was questioned by a female security guard who did not divulge her name or position. Another female questioner was also present.
The first part of the interrogation began with questions like: “Do you feel more Arab or more American?” (to which the interrogator supplied her own answer: “Surely you must feel a little more Arab.”), “Will you go to Al-Aqsa?” and “Why are you coming now for the third time? You can go to Venezuela, to Mexico, to Canada. It is much closer to New York, and much less expensive!”
When Doughman responded by asking “Don’t you have other tourists who come here more than once?” her interrogator responded, “I’m asking the questions here.”
Then, according to Doughman, her interrogator said, “Okay, we are going to do something very interesting now!” As Doughman describes it, the harsh stare on the security woman’s face gave way to a slight smirk. She typed www.gmail.com on her computer, turned the keyboard toward Doughman and demanded that she log in to her personal email account.
Doughman said she that, while she was taken aback, it did not occur to her to refuse, despite the fact that this was clearly not a reasonable request.
According to a piece Doughman wrote several days later on the blog Mondoweiss, the security woman read through every email with certain key words (including “Palestine,” “Israel,” “West Bank” and “International Solidarity Movement”), reading some lines out loud as well as some chats between her and her friend regarding their upcoming trip. Then she recorded a number of her contacts’ names, emails and telephone numbers.
After some five hours of questioning, Doughman and her friend were forced to wait another three hours, after which they were told that they would be refused entry into Israel. Accompanied by a heavy cadre of security people, they were led to another part of Ben Gurion Airport, where they were photographed and their bags were searched meticulously down to the smallest objects.
Their computers and iPads were passed, twice, through an explosives-detection machine. Then they were given body searches behind a curtain.
When a metal detector beeped while being passed over a button on Doughman’s jeans, she was asked to take her pants off. She broke down in tears and refused, to which the security team responded by threatening to remove her pants by force. Instead, she was given a pair of shorts from her own suitcase and told to put them on instead of her jeans.
The two spent the night in a detention facility at Ben Gurion Airport and were flown out via France, some 14 hours after landing in Israel.
On May 21, another U.S. citizen, Sandra Tamari, a 42-year-old Quaker from St. Louis, was also asked to give airport security people access to her email before being denied entry into Israel. Her interrogation lasted eight hours. When she refused to open her email account, she was told that she was probably hiding something.
Tamari, also of Palestinian descent, has been active in campaigns for a boycott and sanctions against Israel. Her description of events was also published on Mondoweiss.
A third American citizen, who preferred that her name not be published, was also refused entry in May after refusing to allow airport security personnel to access her personal email account. She was also told that she must have something to hide.
A similar case was reported in October of 2011.
Ronit Eckstein, a spokesperson for the Israel Airports Authority, told Haaretz that the Interior Ministry is responsible for the entry of tourists to Israel, and that the security officials who interrogated the women were not employed by the Airports Authority or by Ben Gurion Airport.
The Interior Ministry said in response that the security checks are the responsibility of the Shin Bet security service.
The Shin Bet confirmed that Doughman and Tamari had been questioned by Shin Bet agents after landing in Israel, adding that the actions taken by the agents during questioning were within the organization’s authority according to Israeli law.
Israel’s Response …
Israel’s top legal adviser on Wednesday rebuffed criticism of authorities for asking travellers entering the Jewish state to show border officers their emails, saying the checks affecting only certain foreign nationals were lawful.
Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein’s written legal opinion was given in response to a query by the Association of Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) which first questioned the practice last year.
On Wednesday the group called the checks a “drastic invasion of privacy … not befitting a democracy”.
Israel’s security agencies have been keen to stop pro-Palestinian activists they suspect may be planning anti-Israel activities in the occupied West Bank or inside the Jewish state.
Weinstein said officers of the internal undercover security service, the Shin Bet, needed “to establish or dispel suspicion against prospective foreign nationals wishing to enter Israel who show initial suspicious signs”.
He said officers were not allowed to access email accounts without the consent of the owner and added that travellers could refuse to cooperate. This did not necessarily mean they would automatically be barred entry.
“The traveller is not asked to reveal passwords … but opens the account on their own. The traveller has a full right to refuse the search and will not be forced to comply, although this will be taken into account when the authorities decide whether to allow the person to enter Israel,” he said.
Marc Grey, an ACRI attorney, said the issue was not so much the matter of revealing the email account’s password but the actual perusal of the private content in the mailbox.
“Passwords are not the issue, email accounts are about as private as it gets,” Grey told Reuters.
He said he did not know how many travellers to Israel had been asked to open their email accounts.
Lila Margalit, another ACRI attorney, said travellers were not on an equal footing when they faced questioning.
“A tourist … to Israel (who is) interrogated at the airport by Shin Bet agents and told to grant access to their email account, is in no position to give free and informed consent. Such ‘consent’, given under threat of deportation, cannot serve as a basis for such a drastic invasion of privacy,” she wrote in an email distributed on Wednesday.
“Allowing security agents to take such invasive measures at their own discretion and on the basis of such flimsy ‘consent’ is not befitting of a democracy.”