An Interior Ministry response to Nobel Prize laureate Mairead MaGuire’s request to attend a conference in the West Bank was only sent on the day of the event itself, and included a clause that the peace activist would have to post a guarantee of 100,000 shekels ($25,000).
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MaGuire, 71, from Northern Ireland, said she was concerned she would not be allowed to enter the West Bank without coordinating her arrival with the Israeli authorities, because of a 2010 order that barred her from the country.
She took part in the Turkish flotilla attempting to break the naval blockade on Gaza in 2010. She was arrested onboard the ship Rachel Corrie, which was brought to the Ashdod port. MaGuire was deported from Israel with the other activists and banned from Israel for 10 years.
She became aware of the ban in September 2011, after she came to Israel with an international delegation of female Nobel Prize winners but was prevented from entering the country. The following month she requested that the ban be lifted, but said she never received a reply from then-Interior Minister Eli Yishai.
MaGuire’s attorney, Abeer Baker, applied to the Interior Ministry on March 8, explaining that McGuire had been invited to a conference in Ramallah, hosted by a Palestinian NGO, as keynote speaker.
One of the main projects of the NGO – which deals with education, health and empowerment – involves promoting women’s involvement in health issues and making them agents for change.
Baker requested that the 10-year ban be lifted or abbreviated, so MaGuire could participate in the conference. According to Baker, the Interior Ministry initially said MaGuire had to apply to the army, and subsequently questioned whether Baker had legal power of attorney to represent McGuire. “These were technical procedures designed to delay the request,” said Baker.
In the ministry’s reply, signed by attorney Anat Fisher-Tsin (a member of the legal adviser’s staff), MaGuire’s entry to Israel was only approved under three conditions.
The first was that her entry to Israel be for the sole purpose of attending the conference, and that she show a return airline ticket with a flight dated soon after the conference. The second was that she pledge to visit only Ramallah and not be present in the State of Israel for any longer than required.
The third was that she deposit a bank guarantee of 100,000 shekels with the ministry, to ensure compliance with the first two terms. The ministry also stated that MaGuire’s travel ban to visit Israel would not be lifted.
Because of the three conditions – but mainly because of the financial guarantee – MaGuire decided to forego participation in the conference and canceled her trip.
Baker said McGuire had intended to visit Ramallah for humanitarian purposes only and that she supports nonviolence. “The Interior Ministry’s decision allowing Ms. MaGuire’s entrance into the country was given to us at the very hour she was to have delivered her speech at the conference,” said Baker. “It is clear to us that behind the approval of our request was fear of more international damage if she were refused entry again, only because of her desire to fulfill her vision of non-belligerence,” she added.
The Population, Immigration and Border Authority said in response, “MaGuire came to Israel the first time in the framework of the protest flotilla from Turkey in 2010, and like all other participants, she was barred from Israel after the ban was clearly explained to her. Nevertheless, a number of months later, she landed at the airport without coordinating ahead of time and was denied entry. Now, she was permitted entry beyond the letter of the law, subject to guarantees to ensure that she would leave Israel on time and not break the law during her visit. We assume that in many other countries her entry would not be approved at all after previously having been deported.”