Otherwise Occupied

The 'False Information' That Got One Man Refused Entry to Israel

The story of a meticulous border inspector and the obedient coordinator of government activities in the territories.

Amira Hass
Amira Hass
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People at the Allenby Bridge crossing between the West Bank and Jordan.
People at the Allenby Bridge crossing between the West Bank and Jordan.Credit: David Bachar
Amira Hass
Amira Hass

Adrian is a Spanish citizen, an internist and specialist in infectious diseases who planned a short visit to the Holy Land, but his request to enter the country was refused. At the Allenby border crossing Adrian explained to the border control inspector that he was coming for a month, so as to be with his partner and their 2-year-old daughter. After that the three of them would return to Spain.

His name is not really Adrian, and his partner, a German citizen and photographer who is the daughter of a Palestinian refugee from Haifa, is not named Maya. It does not really matter. What does matter is the procedures, laws and bureaucratic atmosphere that have made Adrian a person denied entry.

Adrian arrived at the border terminal with Jordan on November 1, and explained the reason for his visit and his destination: Jerusalem. Simultaneously, an Israeli official at the Allenby terminal called Maya to verify his story, and it turned out that she was the same inspector who Maya met at Allenby when she entered, two months earlier. Yes, said Maya, I am now in Jerusalem (East Jerusalem, by the way, as part of the Qalandiya International biennial art festival). And yes, I received an artist’s grant from the Palestinian Museum in Ramallah and I am staying there. And I am travelling between the two cities – a distance of 15, at most 20 kilometers.

In the meantime, says Adrian, the border inspector told him there is a law forbidding one foreign citizen from visiting another foreign citizen, and therefore he sent him back to Amman, Jordan. Is there or isn’t there such a law? In her response, the spokeswoman of the Population and Immigration Authority ignored this part of Haaretz's question.

The Spanish deputy consul called Allenby, and the border control inspectors told him that Maya must invite Adrian through the Interior Ministry. Maya found this strange, but nevertheless went the next day to the Interior Ministry branch in West Jerusalem. There, as expected, she was told she cannot invite her partner, and she was sent to the Interior Ministry branch in Wadi Joz in East Jerusalem, which deals with Palestinian residents. There she was told Adrian lied, and therefore he was denied entry.

According to what she understood from the Interior Ministry official, Adrian had told the border control agent at the Allenby Bridge that Maya and their young daughter were in Jerusalem, while at the same time the inquiries from Allenby showed that in fact she was really staying in Ramallah. It turns out then that the woman inspector had a hard time understanding Maya’s answer, when she called her on the day of Adrian's aborted entry. Visiting both Ramallah and Jerusalem? Impossible.

After explaining the “lie,” the Interior Ministry clerk told Maya that the reason for Adrian’s visit was not entirely clear to the controller at the Allenby crossing. She asked the clerk about the alleged law that bans a foreign citizen from visiting another foreign citizen. The clerk said there is such a law, but could not provide any further details, said Maya.

In the end, the clerk cut off the discussion and told Maya she must understand that Adrian cannot enter Israel, and after that told her she must make a request to the IDF’s Civil Administration in Beit El.

The spokeswoman of the Population and Immigration Authority told Haaretz: “During [Adrian’s] questioning he provided many false details to the questions asked by the border control inspector and verified with his wife. When it was understood that his intention was most probably to go to Ramallah, as opposed to his statements, handling of the matter was transferred to the [Defense Ministry's] Coordinator of Activities in the Territories, as required. We would like to make it clear that this regulation is a regulation of COGAT.”

From the Interior Ministry in Jerusalem Maya and her daughter traveled to the Civil Administration on the land of El Bireh, in the military base in Beit El. They waited as long as they waited, until a soldier accompanied by two other armed soldiers received her. She told the story, he left the room, returned after an hour and said he could not do anything. He offered for the Spanish consul to intervene, and she said his deputy had already tried. The soldier left the room once again and came back 20 minutes later, and said the Spanish consul must fill out a special request. Who to, she asked. It is a standard and well-known procedure and the consul knows, Maya said the soldier told her. But the soldier did not know and could not give her the name and telephone number of who the request should be addressed to.

She called the deputy consul, who did not know about the standard procedure. And then the soldier told her he was calling a number of people [it seems inside COGAT or in the Civil Administration] who told him to leave the matter alone, and it exceeded his authority.

And here is the response from COGAT, in their own words: “The Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories is responsible for the entry to the area of Judea and Samaria in the international crossing too, according to the rules of international law and security legislation, and acts in coordination with the Interior Ministry. The request by [Adrian] was examined at the Allenby Bridge. Because of the recommendation of the Population and Immigration Authority to deny him [entry] due to his providing false details to the border control inspector, it was decided to deny him entry. As to his wife, representatives of the District Coordination and Liaison [office] in Ramallah approached [Maya] and examined her request to allow the entry of her husband. As previously stated, the aforementioned [man] was denied entry as a result of providing false details, and as a result it was impossible to allow him entry. In an inquiry with the officer of the DCO, it was found that [the officer] tried to help the woman and offered that she turn to the Spanish consul to submit an exceptional request in her name.”

So that is how the full 15 kilometers between Jerusalem and Ramallah turned Adrian into a liar in the eyes of the Interior Ministry and COGAT.

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