Detention and Interrogation = Fascism?

The recent arrival of well-respected American Jewish journalist, Peter Beinart, at Ben-Gurion airport, at which he was detained for more than one hour and interrogated by our border police, is totally unacceptable.

Are we becoming a fascist country? Shall we detain and question every arriving passenger who disagrees with our government’s policies, who speaks against them, who writes articles criticizing them?

It is no wonder that the word “democracy” was omitted from the new Nation-State law. No democratic country would act in such a non-democratic manner. Shame upon the police who perpetrated this insult upon a distinguished visitor.

I am waiting eagerly to read Mr. Beinart’s next article describing his treatment at Israel’s door-step.

It is reported that when our Prime Minister heard of the situation, he telephoned the airport police demanding that they release Mr. Beinart immediately. And he offered an apology to him. An apology which Peter Beinhart refused to accept.

Surely the police could not detain him or any other individual without having received instructions to do so from higher authorities.

Although our police are not fascists, in this situation and similar others they have acted like them.

What is the intended purpose of humiliating well-known visitors? What does it accomplish? If, as a journalist, Peter Beinart wished to visit and to interview Palestinians, does he not have the right under freedom of the press and freedom of speech to do so?

I cannot compare it to the breakaway youngsters on the Taglit (Birthright) program who left the program in order to go to Palestinian centers in order to hear the Palestinian version of “the truth”.

They were not deserving of any consideration. Their “contract” with Birthright required them to remain with the program until the ten days had ended. If they wanted to remain in Israel after their program was over, they should have paid from their own pockets the air-fare to return them to the USA. Birthright had no obligation to support their unwelcome decision to leave the program.

In future I would recommend that the applications for a Birthright program would require the participants to sign a statement to the effect that they agree to remain with the program in its entirety. They should further be required to post a sum of money as a bond which would be returned to them upon their departure from Israel. That could be a positive deterrent to future breakaways.

Airline passengers who are suspicious in their behavior, former Arab citizens, BDS supporters, can certainly be detained and questioned because they can be considered a danger to Israel’s security. And from the questioning, our police can determine who may enter and who must be turned away.

But it should not be applied to well-known and distinguished visitors solely because we do not like their criticisms or their anti-Israeli policies.

We must treat them with honey upon their arrival with a “shalom” and a “baruch ha ba l’Yisrael”.. Greetings and welcome to Israel.  The very first words they hear upon entry will be sincerely spoken, thus giving them an immediate impression of Israeli hospitality.

They have a right to expect hospitality,  not hostility.

I hope that Peter Beinart will learn to seek and to find favorable people and places to write about in his forthcoming articles for the New York Jewish daily newspaper “Forward”.

In the midst of our political chaos and our war with Gaza we can use as many kind words as possible.

About the Author
Esor Ben-Sorek is a retired professor of Hebrew, Biblical literature & history of Israel. Conversant in 8 languages: Hebrew, Yiddish, English, French, German, Spanish, Polish & Dutch. Very proud of being an Israeli citizen. A follower of Trumpeldor & Jabotinsky & Begin.
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