I remained silent. I went below ground. I wanted to erase my name and
work from internet sites-from the memory and eyes of the Israeli security. But by hiding, silencing my story, I admit defeat. I refuse to cower in the face of Israeli discrimination and fear. I am just one woman. One Arab American woman. One Arab American woman who believed that she could in some small way make a difference. I thought that I could help people understand a more complex history of the Palestine and Israeli conflict. I hoped to learn and share what peace means to both my Palestinian and Israeli brothers and sisters. This hope was robbed from me on January 3rd, 2010.
On this day I arrived to Tel Aviv Airport and was greeted with suspicion, disrespect and hostility. I was held for 36 hours, repeatedly strip searched and questioned, fingerprinted, photographed, thrown in jail and deported; barred from entering Israel or the Palestinian Territories for a minimum of ten years.
My crimes? Well, the state of Israel does not have to give reason for deportation and exile. However I suspect being Arab is enough of a crime. Photographs I took in the West Bank city of Hebron were found via internet searching.
I was quoted on a blog regarding home stay experience with a Palestinian family during a delegation with Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) last March.
Do I believe that working with CPT is a threat to the state of Israel? Well, that depends on your vision of Israel- of Israeli security. If Israel is really committed to peace with their Palestinian neighbors wouldn’t it behoove them to encourage the peacemakers, the educators and media? What do is there to hide if Israel has a real commitment to peace?
Instead Israel seems to be sending a clear message to the international
community: Continuing to work within the West Bank will earn you jail time and deportation. In the past month they arrested and deported Eva Nováková, the media co-ordinator for the International Solidarity Movement-one of the strongest Palestinian non-violent direct action organizations in the Occupied Territories.
They also denied entry to two full-time Christian Peacemaker Team members as well as a long-time delegation leader Bob Gross, head of On Earth Peace. It is rumored that the TIPH (Temporary International Presence in Hebron) will not be allowed to renew their contract in order to keep an international presence in the one of the most volatile regions in the West Bank.
If this were not enough, Israel is beginning to launch a new campaign to refuse work permits for international NGO workers from Oxfam, Save the Children, Médecins Sans Frontières, Terre des Hommes, Handicap International and the Religious Society of Friends.
Just this week Ma’an News Journalist Jared Malsin was deported for reporting on the situation in the Occupied Territories.
We cannot remain silent. We will continue to return, to write, to photograph, to record and to stand with those people working for a just peace in the Middle East.
*I borrowed the title for this article from peace activist Marianne Williamson, a line from a poem I carried with me as I attempted to enter
Israel this January.