ByÂ MORDECAI SPECKTOR
Three pro-Palestinian activists from the Twin Cities were denied entry into Israel last week. Karen Sullivan, a member of the Anti-War Committee, was detained at Ben-Gurion Airport last Friday, and put on a return flight on Saturday.
Sarah Martin, a member of Women Against Military Madness, and Katrina Plotz, of the Anti-War Committee, refused to get on a return flight. They were forcibly deported on Sunday, and returned to the Twin Cities on Monday afternoon.
“I think they were tipped off about us,” Martin, a retired nurse, said at a press conference Monday afternoon at the Lindbergh Terminal. She and Plotz had just returned from Israel, via a stop in Atlanta. “They seemed to know that we were coming.”
Plotz said that they were traveling under the auspices of the Chicago-based Palestine Solidarity Group, and had planned to visit with Palestinians in the West Bank. Neither of the women had previously visited Israel or the Palestinian territories.
During their detention at Ben-Gurion, Plotz said that a police officer showed her a Web site for the Anti-War Committee and pointed to her name. She said that he knew that she had been involved in protests at the Republican National Convention in St. Paul last year.
Martin said she was informed by an Israeli official that she would not be allowed to enter Israel because “we were security threats…. We were not told of our rights, of the right to have an appeal.” She mentioned that the security office at the airport had closed for Shabbat.
“We were a security threat,” reiterated Martin. “To them we are, because they do not want the reality of Palestine known to the outside world. And that was our point, to go there and talk with people and see life as it is, and bring that word back.”
Plotz mentioned that seven others in their delegation managed to enter Israel. She said that the border security officials apparently “bought their story” that they were tourists to Israel.
“Israel is a sovereign country, every sovereign country has the right to deny entry to someone that he suspects is not coming bona fide,” said Orli Gil, Israel’s consul general to the Midwest. The Chicago-based diplomat visited the Twin Cities this week, and spoke with the American Jewish World on Tuesday.
“We suspected that these are not innocent tourists,” Gil added. “We suspected that they were not there to carry out lawful, legitimate tasks, so we chose to deport them.”
Gil explained that the fact that the local activists were heading for the West Bank “is not a trigger to hold them from entry to Israel.” Rather, security officials suspected that the activists might “provoke disturbances and be involved in unlawful activities,” according to Gil.