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Another Sign of the Times

26 November 2009

I arrived in Israel at about 15:00 on Wednesday, 25 November afternoon to visit my mother, brother, and sister who are Israeli (and US) citizens resident in Israel since 1973.  My mother has been ill, and this visit was prompted primarily for that reason.  I have visited Israel dozens of times before — most recently December 2008 — and resided in the country for extended periods on several different occasions.  Yesterday, for the first time since my first visit to Israel in 1965, I was detained without explanation at Ben-Gurion airport for nearly two hours and ultimately interrogated.  The questioners asked questions that they surely already knew the answers to.  The asked, for example, my profession and my email.  My position as Donald J. McLaughlan Professor of History and Professor of Middle East History at Stanford University and my email are a matter of public record, easily obtainable from the website of Stanford’s Department of History.  The questioners also asked whether I had travelled to “other countries in the region” which, since they had my passport in their hands for the better part of two hours with all the relevant visa stamps, was also not obscure information.  My luggage was not searched nor was I asked any question remotely related to the security of Israel except whether I had travelled to Iran (I was there once, for two weeks, in 1970 when Israel had warm relations with the Shah’s regime).

It therefore appears that this “investigation” had no purpose other than to harass and intimidate me.

Upon leaving I was told that I would be contacted further by one “Amos” from the Ministry of Defense.  For my convenience, I was given his phone number: 054-329-7532.

Joel Beinin
Donald J. McLachlan Professor of History
Professor of Middle East History
Stanford University

This letter was first published in Occupation Magazine; it is reproduced here for non-profit educational purposes.

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