Veteran American journalist Peter Beinart, who has called for a boycott of West Bank settlement products, was detained for questioning for an hour at Ben-Gurion Airport last weekend, and according to an op-ed he published in the Forward, was questioned about his political activities in the country.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issued a statement saying that upon hearing the news of Beinart’s questioning, he “immediately spoke with Israel’s security forces to inquire how this happened.”
Netanyahu spoke with Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) head Nadav Argaman about the matter.
According to the PMO’s statement, Netanyahu was told “it was an administrative mistake.” The statement said “Israel is an open society which welcomes all-critics and supporters alike. Israel is the only country in the Middle East where people voice their opinions freely and robustly.”
Beinart, a contributing editor at The Atlantic and a columnist for the Forward, wrote that he came to Israel on Sunday with his family for a niece’s bat mitzvah after first traveling to Rhodes, “and was detained and interrogated about my political activities at Ben-Gurion Airport.”
Beinart said that a security official took him alone to a small room and asked about his political involvement, such as whether he was involved in any organization that could provoke violence in Israel, or that threatened Israel democracy.
“Then he told me that on my last trip to Israel I had participated in a protest, which is true,” he wrote. “He asked where it occurred and I answered ‘Hebron.’ He asked its purpose and I answered that we were protesting the fact that Palestinians in Hebron and across the West Bank lack basic rights.”
Beinart’s questioning was the latest in a series of questioning of US left-wing Jewish activists.
The Knesset in March passed a law banning foreign nationals who have publicly called for a boycott of Israel, or who work on behalf of organizations promoting boycotts, from entering the country.
Jewish Agency Chairman Isaac Herzog responded to the incident by saying he has anticipated for some time “serious mishaps at Ben-Gurion Airport.” He said that in May he asked Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee Chairman Avi Dichter to convene a special session for parliamentary oversight on the issue.
“Unfortunately, damage to Israel’s good name and an unnecessary tempest among the Jews of the Diaspora was caused in vain. After the Beinart incident it is important to receive a response.”