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Occupation magazine - Life under occupation
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French Jewish Activist Detained at Ben-Gurion, Denied Entry
I have just come back to France this Wednesday afternoon 22 December after being expelled in the middle of the night by the Israeli government, after being interrogated for 30 hours, detained and an attempt to forcefully ship me into planes, before I was able to meet with a female lawyer and warn the French Consulate. Thank you to all those who were outraged about it.
I thank all those who were worried about my arrest at Ben Gurion airport, my detention in a cell of the retention centre of the immigration services and my expulsion manu militari by a state which calls itself democratic but cannot bear the least criticism of its policies.
After arriving at 3 a.m. at Ben Gurion airport on Tuesday 21, nearly 24 hours after I left Roissy-Charles de Gaulle, because of flights delays, and extra stops related to the present disruptions in the Northern European airports, I am taken aside after being questioned for a few minutes at security control.
- Where are you going? To Jerusalem.
- For how long? A week.
- What for? Meet friends.
- Father’s first name? Moïse.
- Your grandfather’s? Elie.
The young police officer hardly looks at me. He taps away at his computer and call another airport official who takes me aside.
I am told to wait in a room where several young Frenchmen are sitting; they are going to be interrogated for hours and to pass through, forced to sign a paper on which they promise not to set foot in the occupied Palestinian Territories, for fear of being expelled, to be prevented for 10 years from entering the country and to be given a two year prison sentence in Israel!
They are interrogated then sent back to wait in the room, then called back and so on. The to and fro has been going on for some of them.
As for me, it will last 2 hours, during which I keep meeting a young official who is interested in my activities in France and who has obviously had time to see what everyone can get from Google. I tell him that, indeed, I campaign for the end of the Israeli occupation, for the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people and the respect of international law. He tells me that he is progressive and shares my ideas, but in the minority in his country where, he says, “unfortunately, I cannot do what I want. No party will defend my ideas”.
His `liberalism` does not prevent him from consulting his superiors at the Home Office and presenting me finally to a woman who informs me that I am going to be turned back: “Entry denied”. I ask then for which reason. “Security threat”. I then bring to her attention to the fact that she knows perfectly well that I am a pacifist and that I do not endanger at all anyone’s security. My few belongings are carefully examined by every electronic gadget in their possession. I was actually searched without any suspicious object being found.
- Yes but you organize demonstrations in France, she answers back!
- Yes, and so what? I defend ideas of peace and justice. In which way do my activities in France have anything to do with you?
End of discussion. Nobody discusses the orders from the Home Office, she concludes.
Return to the waiting room where new people who are “suspected” of sympathy for the Palestinians (some Frenchmen and an Italian) are being grilled, in the middle of the night, after an exhausting journey. The aim is obviously to frighten them and to put them off enough to dissuade them from coming back.
A police van ships me away to the retention centre situated within the airport. They confiscate all my personal belongings, apart from my money which they ask me to keep with me. I am forbidden to take my mobile, or call anyone to tell about my situation.
In the cell with 4 bunk beds, one only is occupied by a Romanian student who is going to be expelled because she has not obtained a visa to go and see her mother who works in Israel.
At 10, I am taken out for an immediate boarding. I refuse, asking to first see a lawyer. I am seized by force, I am handcuffed and I am driven to the landing runways. Barefoot as I refused to put my shoes on, carried by 4 policemen, I arrive at the top of the gangway of a Turkish Airline plane ready to take off, where the passengers are already seated. I scream that I refuse to get into that plane, I struggle. The crew refuses to force me to board the plane. Return to the retention centre.
The policemen are somewhat disconcerted. I am not an “ordinary customer”. One of them tries to understand my motivations and above all to convince me that he too wants peace, unlike the Palestinians who are terrorists, and that Israel has to defend itself. And all those who prevent it are in effect a danger for their security. “With your Jewish roots, you should understand this”, he tells me. I answer him that it is Israeli policies that constitute a danger for the whole world, including Jews, through developing terrorism and anti-Semitism. One “In any case, you have no right to be the judge, if you do not live here” ends the discussion. Nevertheless I answer back that I have Israeli friends who think like me.
I am now placed in solitary confinement. In no way must I contaminate other people with my refusal to board a plane. Alerted, Leah Tsemel pays me a visit and tells me about the situation. She is scandalized: “Now the state of all the Jewish people starts separating the Kosher Jews from the non-Kosher. From whose authority?”. Instigate legal proceedings? It is possible to go to court, but I would have to stay here 3 or 4 months to wait for a judgement which could be negative. Her confidence in Israeli justice has its limits. Also, not to stay in detention all the while, a bail of at least 10,000 euros would have to be gathered.
I have better things to do.
The French Vice-Consul, warned by my friends, also comes to visit me. He is deeply concerned about the situation and tells me that the French government has not managed so far to stop the practice to expel French nationals who have committed no offence. He finds this regrettable. He demands that my guards, before I leave, let me take a book and some medicine from my confiscated belongings.
Back to my cell. They bring me a meal in in plastic box, which I do not touch – like those before it. I shall not eat before I am free.
Several times during the night, the policemen dash into my cell to shout that I am to board the next plane, and that, if I struggle and refuse a second time, they will see to it that I am escorted by two policemen, which is “normal” procedure if the person refuses to board a plane. In the end, I board a plane for Istanbul in a Turkish airline plane where the very kind crew promise me to find me a flight for France, which is what they do, although the Israeli wanted to send me to Munich first, just because I had stopped in that airport.
I am travelling, satisfied to know that in Jerusalem, the meetings organized with the Palestinian, Israeli and international anti colonialist campaigners, are taking place with more than 70 French men and women who came to express their attachment to human rights and justice.
I am also very touched to learn, on my return to France, that, in spite of the holiday and festive season, so many associations and people worried about this kidnapping, and asked for explanations. I thank them with all my heart.
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