Israel Denies Entry to German Students Who 'Tried Hiding' Plans to Visit Palestinian University

Interrogators at Tel Aviv airport asked one of them about her political views and accused her of intending to participate in demonstrations

Passengers walk with their luggage upon their arrival at Ben Gurion Airport near Lod in November.
Passengers walk with their luggage upon their arrival at Ben Gurion Airport near Lod in November.Credit: JACK GUEZ - AFP

Israel has denied entry to two students from Germany, after the Immigration Authority said on Saturday that they "hid" their plans to visit a Palestinian university in the West Bank.

Sarah Rueller, a doctoral student at the University of Siegen in Germany, told Haaretz that she had not initially told immigration officers at Ben-Gurion Airport about her intention to visit Birzeit University, where she had studied before as an exchange student, because she knew it may delay her entry into the country. Instead, she only said she intended to meet acquaintances in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.

Rueller and the second woman, a graduate student also from Siegen, were held and questioned at the airport. They were repatriated on Sunday.

According to Rueller, she was asked during questioning about her political views and accused of intending to participate in demonstrations against the occupation.

"The inspector told me, 'I know why you're here, you want to protest for human rights.' He added that he knows I'm lying about the purpose of my visit," Rueller said.

Israel's Population and Immigration Authority said that the two women's version seemed suspicious to border inspectors at the airport, adding they "refused to cooperate" and gave a false statement as to the reason for their visit.

The agency also stressed that the two students sought to enter Israel on a tourist visa, and in any academic or professional capacity.

"If they want to come to Israel in the future, they must arrange their arrival in advance with the proper Israeli representation in their country," the immigration authority stated.

In 2018, an American student, Lara Alqasem, was held at Tel Aviv airport for two weeks over Israel's claims she was a BDS activist. Following a legal battle that ended with a Supreme Court ruling, she was eventually let into the country on a student visa.

The court at the time slammed Israeli authorities for her detention, saying it was an "extreme and dangerous step, which could lead to the crumbling of the pillars upon which democracy stands."

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