Last year, Israeli security forces at Ben Gurion Airport denied entry to 30-year old Jewish American Harold Fuller-Bennett because they claim he was ‘suspected of conversion to Islam’. Fuller-Bennett hired Israeli lawyers to challenge the claim, which he says is bizarre and completely unfounded, and just won his case in Israeli court.While denial of entry to foreign nationals based on their political beliefs has become common in Israel in recent years, Fuller-Bennett’s case is unusual because he is an avowed Zionist and supporter of the state of Israel. Most of those denied entry are supporters of Palestinian equal rights, which Israeli security services claim is sufficient cause to deport them, but Fuller-Bennett is not.
In fact, just two years before being denied entry, Fuller-Bennett had been a participant in the ‘Birthright Israel’ program, which provides free trips to Israel for young Jews to expose them to the Israeli narrative on the situation, and encourage them to ‘make aliyah’ and move to Israel permanently.
About his ‘Birthtright Israel’ trip, Fuller-Bennett wrote, ‘We had a number of engaging Israeli military members on our bus. I am still Facebook friends with some of them. My conversations with them taught me much about the complexity of modern Israel, and the difficulty of being born into a state with a siege mentality.’
With Israel’s use of ‘psychological screening’ techniques at the airport, security services take aside people who seem nervous, unsure, or less than 100% supportive of the Israeli state and the Zionist project. In Fuller-Bennett’s case, his passport was originally stamped with an entry stamp, but then he was taken aside for questioning, which he said he was completely unprepared for. He apparently became nervous at the intense questioning, and was told that he was a security threat.
The entry stamp on his passport was then crossed out, and replaced with an ‘Entry Denied’ stamp, put on a plane and deported for a term of ten years.
In his subsequent court case challenging the denial of entry, Israeli security forces said that they believed Fuller-Bennett had ‘connections to terrorists’ and that he may have ‘converted to Islam’, but provided no evidence to back either of these claims.
This week, an Israeli judge ruled in Fuller-Bennett’s favor, and he will now be allowed to visit Israel again.
Supporters of Palestinian equal rights who have challenged their deportation orders, of which there have been thousands in recent years, have been almost universally denied in Israeli court, which has ruled over and over again that support for Palestinian equal rights is a treasonous political position — even for Israeli citizens.