For Second Time in a Month, Shin Bet Detains Left-wing Activist at Ben-Gurion Airport

Yehudit Ilani detained, but not questioned, after covering Gaza-bound flotilla for a media outlets. She says she has no connection to the flotilla organizers

Yehudit Ilani photographed on June 10, 2018.
Ilan Assayag

The Shin Bet security service detained a left-wing activist at Tel Aviv's Ben-Gurion Airport for the second time in a month.

Yehudit Ilani told Haaretz that in early June, she was detained on her way back from Europe after visiting a flotilla headed to Gaza in the coming weeks in her capacity as a journalist.

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The incident, seen as highly unusual, comes weeks after the detaining at the airport of the head of the Coalition of Women for Peace. In the past, only foreign nationals have been detained at the airport for poltiical reasons. 

Ilani said she flew to Sweden on May 14 to cover the departure of the flotilla, which was organized by a number of international left-wing groups, from a port in Sweden. She said she has no links to the flotilla’s organizers and that she had gone to cover their work in her capacity as a journalist for the Social Television Network, a website identified with the left.

Ilani said she has no idea why she was detained and that she did not know whether there were people on the flotilla about whom the Shin Bet might be particularly interested.

The Shin Bet confirmed that Ilani had been detained, adding: “In the context of information received when Ms. Ilani entered Israel, the need arose to conduct checks after which, when they were completed, about 45 minutes later, Ms. Ilani entered Israel.” The Shin Bet did not say what kind of information it had about Ilani or whether it had anything to do with her trip to Europe. Haaretz did not find any other recent incident in which left-wing activists were detained for a similar screening.

Last month, left-wing activist Tanya Rubinstein, of the Coalition of Women for Peace was detained at the airport upon her return from a conference organized by the Swedish Foreign Ministry. Rubinstein had to wait at the airport due to “security information” about her. She was released and entered the country after a brief waiting period.

Another Israeli woman who attended the conference entered Israel without a hitch, unlike Rubinstein. 

“I returned on May 10. In Sweden there was a security check, a check of Norwegian Airlines, and when I asked why they were inspecting me they said they were acting on instructions from Tel Aviv. They opened my case,” Rubinstein said.

In April, it was reported that Israeli police and the Shin Bet would pay 4,500 shekels (about $1,260) to a right-wing activist, a resident of a West Bank settlement, for an incident in 2016 in which a Shin Bet interrogator detained him for questioning without clarifying why he was detained. He was taken to a police station for questioning, where he was subjected to a body search, and was ultimately brought before a Shin Bet operative for questioning.