Americans for Peace Now (APN) is deeply concerned about the detention and questioning of the New Israel Fund's vice president, Jennifer Gorovitz, at Ben Gurion Airport yesterday upon arrival in Israel. Gorovitz, who flew into Israel to participate in NIF's Board meeting, was detained for ninety minutes and questioned three times during that period about NIF's activities, including its funding of Israeli non-profit organizations.
Today, according to Israeli media reports, the interim director general of Israel's Population and Immigration Authority, Amnon Shmueli, said that the questioning was "routine," apologized if the questioning caused Ms. Gorovitz anguish, and said that there was no intention to insult her.
APN's President and CEO Debra DeLee commented:
"This is yet another act – one in an alarmingly intensifying pattern – of Israeli government harassment of liberal civil society and dissenting voices. If Gorovitz's detention and questioning was not bad enough, the government's so-called 'apology' is cause for even more concern. The issue is not whether a visitor to Israel was 'insulted' but rather the practice of harassing progressive organizations, which Mr. Shmueli said was 'routine.'
"Obviously, Israel has every right to rigorously vet visitors for terrorism suspects. In recent years, however, Israel is applying counter-terrorism vetting practices to organizations and individuals who espouse views dissenting from the official government line. Ms. Gorovit's experience – as well as the experience of other individuals associated with progressive groups, including American citizens – suggests that the government keeps a database of ideological dissenters at its ports of entry, and subjects these individuals to routine harassment.
"This alarming routine is not an isolated practice of Israeli government harassment of dissenting voices. The Prime Minister himself, senior ministers in his cabinet and other members of Benjamin Netanyahu's ruling coalition are routinely inciting and advancing legislation against progressive groups, particularly organizations that strive to end the occupation. One such piece of legislation, which is expected to come to a vote in the Knesset in the near future, would deny entry to Israel for individuals associated with organizations that support boycotting West Bank settlements.
"This government seems determined to lead the people of Israel down an anti-democratic slippery slope, determined to join a reprehensible club of authoritarian regimes worldwide, which do not tolerate dissent."