Israel Bars Entry to Palestinian-American Writer Because She Didn't Coordinate Her Arrival

Israeli authorities say Susan Abulhawa was told every future entry would have to be arranged in advance after she was barred from entering in 2015. Abulhawa was planning to attend a literary festival in the West Bank

Yotam Berger
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Palestinian-American writer Susan Abulhawa at the Oslo Book Festival in 2010.
Palestinian-American writer Susan Abulhawa at the Oslo Book Festival in 2010.Credit: Decltype / Wikimedia Commons
Yotam Berger

The Population, Immigration and Border Authority said that it prevented Susan Abulhawa, an American writer and activist of Palestinian origin, from entering Israel on Thursday because she had not arranged her entry in advance.

Abulhawa arrived at Ben-Gurion International Airport with the intention of participating in a literary festival in the West Bank, but she was refused entry by immigration officials and was deported back to the United States.

The Population, Immigration and Border Authority said the refusal was not related to the reasons for her visit, but because she had not made any arrangements to enter Israel in advance. 

"At the end of July 2015, Abulhawa arrived at the Allenby [Bridge] border crossing and behaved angrily, crudely and vulgarly, and most important she refused to cooperate when asked about the purpose of her [visit]," The Immigration Authority’s spokeswoman said. "At this point, she was refused entry and it was made clear to her that every future entry would have to be arranged in advance."

The Immigration Authority said, however, that Abulhawa arrived in Israel without making prior arrangements as required, and the refusal to allow her to enter Israel had nothing to do with her planned activities. The authority added that she acted aggressively.

Lara Alqasem, a 22-year-old American student with Palestinian grandparents, was detained upon her arrival at Ben-Gurion Airport on October 2 after she was flagged as a BDS activist. Alqasem was held for over two weeks in a detainment center at Ben-Gurion Airport despite receiving a student visa from an Israeli consulate prior to her arrival. The Supreme Court accepted Alqasem's appeal against the decision on October 19 and she was allowed into Israel.

Simone Zimmerman, an American Jewish activist, was held by the Shin Bet security service at the border between Israel and Egypt in April. Zimmerman, a founding member of anti-occupation movement IfNotNow, wrote on Twitter that she and fellow activist Abby Kirschbaum were being questioned only about their political views and activities related to Palestinians. According to Zimmerman, among the first things she was asked were: "Why did you come here to work with Palestinians? Why not with Jews?"

Zimmerman's questioning came less than a week after an Israeli citizen who lived in the U.S. for several months was detained by Shin Bet agents at Ben-Gurion Airport for a "cautionary conversation" because of his involvement in left-wing organizations.

In July, a prominent Jewish-American philanthropist was delayed for questioning at Ben-Gurion Airport after a pro-Palestinian pamphlet was found in his suitcase.