A director of a Palestinian NGO that Israel declared a terror organization last year was barred from boarding a flight to the United States.
Sahar Francis, the director of Addameer – director of Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Organization – sought to travel on Saturday to a conference of civil society groups in Mexico, but was informed she was not allowed to board her flight upon her arrival at Ben-Gurion International Airport.
In a separate incident, Israel prevented the director of the Bisan NGO – Ubai Aboudi who wanted to attend the same conference – to enter Jordan from the West Bank.
Francis said she was trying to travel through the United States to the World Social Forum conference. When she reached the American Airlines check-in counter she was told she could not board the plane because she was not allowed to enter the United States, despite having a valid visa, she said. Connecting flights in the United States require such a visa.
Addameer and Bisan are among the six civil society groups that Defense Minister Benny Gantz labeled as terrorist organizations for aiding and supporting the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, the PFLP. The United States had not joined the designation and demanded clarifications from Israel after the designation in October.
In regards Francis, an Israeli citizen, the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem said that “As a general matter, the State Department does not comment publicly on any individual's visa status or ability to enter the United States.”
U.S. State Department spokesman Ned Price said on Monday that "There’s nothing I can say from here on the specifics of any particular visa record.” Last week Price said that "we're reviewing" information Israel had provided regarding the determination of these groups as terrorist organizations.
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Officials in Israel said that Israel did not detain her departure from the country. American Airlines told Haaretz that she was prevented from boarding the plane because of a decision by U.S. immigration authorities.
Diala Shamas, staff attorney for the Center for Constitutional Rights in the United States, told Haaretz that what happened to Francis matches incidents in which a passenger was included in the American's so-called No Fly List. She noted that the U.S. authorities don't confirm or deny who is on the list, and that individuals get no advance notice of their placement on the list and usually find out at the airport when they are denied boarding by an airline official.
Aboudi tried to leave Israel for Jordan via the Allenby Bridge border crossing, the only one open to Palestinians, and was denied permission. He said he was not told why, and that his request to speak with a senior officer was denied. He said he went to Jordan last month without any hassle.
Security officials did not comment officially regarding his allegations, but a statement in the name of the security establishment stated that Shin Bet officials prevented his exit because he had served prison time in Israel and not because of his role at Bisan.
Aboudi was arrested in 2019 on suspicion of belonging to the PFLP. He spent months in administrative detention. Eight months after his arrest, he was convicted as part of a plea bargain and sentenced to a year in prison. He denies any links to the PFLP and said he signed the plea deal only to get out of jail. It was reported in November that Pegasus spyware had been found on his phone, and those of five other Palestinian activists.
Addameer said in a statement: “The decision to prevent the executives of Palestinian civil society organizations from traveling and speaking borders on dangerous escalation of the harassment and isolation campaign that Israel leads.”