An Australian media personality and academic said he was “picked out” for a security check while trying to leave Israel in an incident that left him “shaken and angry.”
Waleed Aly was participating in a discussion on Australia’s Channel 10 about an increase in strip searches in New South Wales when he revealed his experience in Israel, without clarifying when it took place or at which border crossing.
“I’ve only experienced it once, and it wasn’t here, it was overseas,” he said. “I was trying to leave Israel and as I was leaving they just picked me out and just took me aside and it just went for hours basically.”
Aly did not say what he was questioned about, but added that although he was not strip-searched, he was asked to undo his jeans.
With a sharp increase in the number of strip searches in NSW, activist Rachel Evans talks through her own “scary and intimidating” experience and Waleed shares his story. #TheProjectTV pic.twitter.com/pedf25jr5m
— The Project (@theprojecttv) December 19, 2018
“The thing about it is that you don’t know where it’s going to end,” Aly said. “They explain nothing. So you’re just in this situation, you don’t know why. The power imbalance is horrific and you have no idea where it is going,” he added.
“I’ve never left a situation more shaken or angry than that particular thing. We don’t need more of that,” Aly concluded.
The revelation comes after a slew of cases in which alleged anti-Israel activists have been detained while trying to enter the country. Strategic Affairs Minister Gilad Erdan in October defended recent instances in which left-wing Jewish activists were detained and questioned by the Shin Bet security service at airports and borders, saying there were legitimate security concerns.
Several of those detained were asked their opinions of the Israeli government and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and Erdan conceded that this was not appropriate.
Israel’s Supreme Court ruled in October that an American student accused of advocating boycotts of Israel could enter the country, putting an end to a weeks-long saga that drew scrutiny of an Israeli law allowing alleged anti-Israel activists to be barred from entry. In accepting Lara Alqasem’s appeal, the Supreme Court overturned a ruling by a lower court that upheld the ban on her entry under a 2017 law forbidding BDS activists from entering Israel.
Alqasem’s detention came less than a week after Deputy Attorney General Dina Zilber said the Shin Bet security service would no longer ask detainees at border crossings about their political views and that regulations to that effect would be reiterated to officials at the borders.
The statement from Zilber followed a month-long inquiry after American Jewish journalist and prominent critic of the Israeli government Peter Beinart said he was questioned on his political views upon arriving in the country for his niece’s bat mitzvah.
After Beinart related his story, a prominent Iranian-American author said he was also questioned and threatened by the Shin Bet two weeks earlier, while entering Israel from Jordan with his family. In a series of Twitter posts, Reza Aslan likened the interrogation to those in “police states” and said he decided to share the experience after Beinart disclosed his own questioning. Though it acknowledged Beinart’s questioning, the Shin Bet denied Aslan’s claims, calling them “unfounded.”
Others who have said they were recently held up include Simone Zimmerman, a co-founder of the progressive Jewish group IfNotNow; Abby Kirschbaum, who works for an Israeli-Palestinian tour company; and the novelist Moriel Rothman-Zecher. In early July, the Jewish pro-boycott activist Ariel Gold was denied entry into Israel.
A law passed last year allows the Interior Ministry to bar entry for supporters of the BDS movement, which encourages boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel. Under the Basic Law: Human Dignity and Liberty, Israeli citizens may not be prevented from entering the country.