Organizations and politicians have condemned Israel’s treatment of Laura Mandel, a board member of The Abraham Initiatives, at Ben Gurion International Airport after she was questioned and separated from her belongings.
Daniel Sokatch, CEO of the New Israel Fund, released a statement saying: “The Netanyahu government has shown once again that it is now a matter of policy to use border crossings as interrogation chambers and opportunities for political targeting. The government is demonstrating that the test for entering the country is a political one — either you agree with this government or you’re subject to questioning, intimidation, or refusal.”
Mandel, a member of a Jewish-Arab nonprofit was held up at Ben-Gurion International Airport Saturday night while attempting to board her return flight to San Francisco.
Mandel told Haaretz that during her security check she was asked, among other questions, “why an American Jew would be interested in relations between Jews and Arabs.”
She was ultimately allowed to board the flight – but without her personal belongings.
“This is simply not something a democracy does,” Sokatch said. “Only a government with something to hide would work this hard to keep out those with whom it disagrees.”
Meretz Chairwoman Tamar Zandberg wrote on Twitter: “The sweater stayed in Israel: The joy of being held up at Ben Gurion airport is no longer limited to entering the country. What, exactly, is so scary about Jewish-Arab cooperation and to whom?”
Jeremy Ben-Ami, head of J-Street, tweeted: “It just gets worse and worse. How does one justify the way this Abraham Initiatives Board member was treated?”
Former Meretz Chairwoman Zehava Galon also chimed in on Twitter, saying: “First, Ben Gurion Airport interrogates those who are against the occupation, and now they are interrogating those who deal with Jewish-Arab relations. How do members of the legitimate political group ‘Abraham Initiatives,’ who are apparently out of favor with the Israeli regime, deserve interrogation, harassment and intimidation? And how, exactly, does this stupidity advance the good name of Israel?”
Merav Michaeli of the Labor Party voiced support for Abraham Initiatives on Twitter, writing that “Abraham Initiatives is one of the most constructive NGOs working in Israel. Never against, always for. For building connections, introductions and cooperation between Jews and Arabs. This is what happens when so many cooperate with Netanyahu’s insane incitement against 20% of our population.”
Abraham Initiatives responded to the various comments on Twitter: “Overwhelmed by the outpouring of support in the wake of intimidation of our board member at Ben Gurion Airport. We will continue to work for a shared and inclusive Israel, free from discrimination against Arab citizens and those who support #Shared_Society.”
The Abraham Initiatives partners with a number of Israeli authorities, including government offices. The joint general managers, Amnon Be’eri-Sulitzeanu and Dr. Thabet Abu Rass, told Haaretz after the incident: “The delay and humiliation of a member of our management points to a deterioration in the relations of the state to Arab citizens. Anyone who cares about equality and a shared life, and anyone who is in contact with Arabs – citizens or non-citizens – is tagged as a potential threat. It seems as if the security directives now include harassment not only of peace activists but also of those who act for a shared life between citizens of the state. We will not let this pass, and we plan to act on this issue on the legal level as well.”