An American Jew was initially denied entry into Israel on Wednesday even though she has applied to immigrate here and holds both a temporary resident’s visa and a potential immigrant’s visa. The denial of entry came after she told investigators that she had visited Khan al-Ahmar, the West Bank Bedouin town slated for demolition.
After two-and-a-half hours, however, she was informed that she could enter Israel on condition that she did not go into the West Bank without a permit from the Coordinator of Government Activity in the Territories.
Julie Shayna Weinberg-Connors, 23, arrived Wednesday evening on a flight from the United States. On Thursday, she is supposed to start studying at the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem.
At border control she was taken for questioning, which lasted around 20 minutes. Speaking by telephone from Ben-Gurion International Airport, she said that a man – she did not know if it was a border guard or a Shin Bet security service agent – asked her if she had ever visited the West Bank. She answered that she had, through an American Jewish organization called Encounter, which arranges meetings between Americans and Palestinians.
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According to Weinberg-Connors, she was told by the investigator, “You can’t go there,” and she responded that with the visa she had, visiting the West Bank was not illegal. The investigator replied, “No, it’s not [illegal] but we told you that you cannot go there.”
She was then asked about the places she had visited. She mentioned Bethlehem and other places in the West Bank, as the man continued to press her in a manner she described as nerve-wracking and scary. She then said she had visited Khan al-Ahmar. At that point the investigator got up and said, “You cannot enter. You are here to make trouble.” This was around 7:40 P.M.
Attorney Leora Bechor, whom Weinberg-Connors was allowed to call from the airport, said she heard a border control officer or some other official at the airport say, “The Civil Administration doesn’t want you in Israel.” But the Civil Administration has authority only in the West Bank; it has no authority to decide who may or may not enter Israel.
Weinberg-Connors is active in the left-wing American Jewish organization All That’s Left, which opposes the occupation. But she told Haaretz that the official who questioned her didn’t ask her about this activity.
The “Decision Concerning Denial of Entry” form that Weinberg-Connors received listed the reason for denial as “prevention of illegal immigration considerations.” Yet the Interior Ministry issued her a temporary resident visa and identity card in April 2018 that is valid until March 2020. She also has a potential immigrant’s visa, which allows her to work; it, too, is valid until March 2020. The visa is signed by Adi Ben Yeshaya, a senior coordinator in the Interior Ministry.
Upon learning that the authorities were planning to send her back to the United States, MKs Tamar Zandberg and Mossi Raz of Meretz called senior officials in the Population and Immigration Authority. Haaretz also submitted a query on the matter. Shortly before 10 P.M., Weinberg-Connors was told she would be allowed entry. She was told to sign a Border Control Administration form entitled “Declaration by a tourist of non-entry to [Palestinian] Authority areas without the approval of the Coordinator of Government Activity in the Territories.” The clerk who got her to sign is Yehiel Kaminsky.
Sabine Haddad, spokeswoman for the Population and Immigration Authority, said, “At issue is an American citizen who arrived at Ben-Gurion Airport in the evening hours and when questioned it emerged that she planned to stay in the Palestinian Authority areas without a permit from the Coordinator of Government Activity in the Territories as required. After an examination by the relevant security authorities there was an unequivocal recommendation not to allow her entry, but after she committed to get a permit as required should she come to the PA areas, her entry was approved.”
Bechor, however, stressed that Weinberg-Connors is not a tourist, but a temporary resident of Israel, one stage before receiving citizenship under the Law of Return.