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13 Aug, 2018 19:22

Liberal Jewish-American reporter detained & questioned in Israel about his political beliefs

Liberal Jewish-American reporter detained & questioned in Israel about his political beliefs

Liberal Jewish-American journalist Peter Beinart says he won’t accept Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s apology to him for being detained and questioned about his political beliefs at an Israeli airport.

Beinart flew to Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion Airport on Sunday to attend his niece’s Bat Mitzvah – only to be intercepted by Israeli passport control and questioned for over an hour about his political beliefs and affiliations.

According to Beinart –who is an advocate for Palestinian rights, and is a regular contributor to the left-leaning Jewish-American outlet, The Forward– his Israeli interrogator asked "again and again” for the names of “objectionable” organizations that he was associated with.

“[The interrogator’s] definition of objectionable, however, kept changing. At one point he asked about groups that incite or provoke violence. At another he asked about groups that threaten Israeli democracy. At another he asked about groups that promote anarchy,” Beinart wrote in a piece he penned for The Forward about the ordeal. “Then he simply asked if I was connected to any organization –or involved in any activity– that he should be concerned about. I laughed and told him that if I thought he should be concerned about it I wouldn’t be involved. But his imprecision was telling: He established no consistent or objective standard for my detention. His standard was whether I planned to cause trouble – trouble meaning whatever he and his superiors wanted it to mean.”

The interrogation ended only after Beinart had reassured the Israeli security officer that he was not planning on attending any political rallies while in Israel. He then secured his release after phoning a well-known Israeli human rights lawyer.

“Israel, like America, is getting uglier. And yet I can’t imagine not coming here. I’ll keep doing so until they bar me outright. When I left the interrogation, my kids ran to me and I realized: This too was a Jewish experience to remember,” Beinart wrote.

In a rare apology, Tel Aviv has expressed regret about Beinart’s detention, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu saying the incident was the result of an “administrative mistake.”

“Prime Minister Netanyahu heard of Mr. Beinart’s questioning at Ben Gurion airport and immediately spoke with Israel’s security forces to inquire how this happened,” the Prime Minister’s Office said in a statement published on Monday.

“He was told it was an administrative mistake,” the statement continued. “Israel is an open society which welcomes all – critics and supporters alike. Israel is the only country in the Middle East where people voice their opinions freely and robustly.”

The Shin Bet security service also apologized for the “judgement error” of its officers.

Beinart, however, said that he wouldn’t accept Israel’s apology.“Benjamin Netanyahu has half-apologized for my detention yesterday at Ben Gurion airport,” he tweeted. “I’ll accept when he apologizes to all the Palestinians and Palestinian-Americans who every day endure far worse.”

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