In an unusual incident, the Shin Bet security service held Israeli peace activist Tanya Rubinstein at Ben-Gurion International Airport for half an hour in early May, Rubinstein told Haaretz on Thursday. She is general coordinator of the Coalition of Women for Peace and was returning from a conference sponsored by the Swedish foreign ministry.
The Shin Bet said she was held because of information received, but declined to elaborate. She was freed after 30 minutes without being questioned.
Rubinstein said she was detained in an attempt to restrict the activity of the Coalition of Women for Peace. “We act to expose the effects of the Gaza siege and the occupation on the residents, especially on women. That’s exactly what Israel doesn’t want the public to hear,” she said.
Several leading activists told Haaretz they were not aware of similar incidents involving Israelis and that they knew only of foreign citizens who have been detained at the airport for political reasons.
“The conference was held by Sweden’s Foreign Ministry and a world research institute, which deals with peace and development issues,” Rubinstein said. “It was attended by diplomats, civilians and academics. It did not deal with the Israeli-Palestinian dispute. There were Palestinians there, but not Palestinian Authority officials. It was about civilian society and authorities and I was there to speak about the restriction of civilian space. It wasn’t open to the public,” she said.
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Another Israeli woman who attended the conference entered Israel without a hitch.
“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.
“On landing in Tel Aviv, at the passport control scanner, not the biometric one, a red X appeared on the screen and the official there asked me to come to the counter. There they took my passport and led me to a cubicle off to the side. They told me to sit and wait and that someone would come to talk to me,” she said.
When she asked why she was being detained, she was told it was for security reasons. “After that they came with my passport and said I was free to go. They didn’t tell me why I was held up, and didn’t question me or contact me since,” she said.
“We keep running into attempts by Israel’s government to restrict our activity and silence us,” she said.
The Shin Bet said “due to information received, it was necessary to hold some inquiries and when they were completed, 30 minutes later, she entered Israel.”