'You Won't See Your Kids': Reza Aslan Reveals He Was Detained by Shin Bet at Israeli Border

Aslan posted on Twitter that Peter Beinart's expose of his detention by the Shin Bet while entering Israel has prompted him to tell his own detention story

Reza Aslan at Roanoke College, 2012
Reza Aslan/WikiMedia Commons

UPDATE: Israel denies Reza Aslan's claims, says he 'behaved suspiciously'

American author and former CNN host Reza Aslan tweeted Tuesday that he was detained while crossing into Israel from Jordan and separated from his family two weeks ago.

"We can make it so you don’t see your kids for a long time,” Aslan reported that he was told.

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Aslan said that leading Jewish-American journalist Peter Beinart's detention for questioning at the Ben-Gurion International Airport while entering Israel, which Haaretz reported Monday, had "spurred" him to "share my own."

According to Aslan, "the Shin Bet lady, who already knew everything about me and my family’s journey around the world, began with 'You think because you’re a public person I can’t do whatever I want with you?' I was floored. This is how interrogations begin in police states."

On his Twitter feed, Aslan related the rest of his experience, saying that his interrogator asked him: “You don’t think Israel should exist yes?” to which he replied: "That’s absurd. I’m against the occupation, not Israel."

Aslan claims the interrogator proceeded to ask him to write down the names of Palestinians and journalists he knows and associates with and of Palestinian organizations he supports, while threating him that he would not see his children if he didn't cooperate.

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According to Aslan, his wife, two children- aged six and three- and "elderly in-laws" were waiting for him outside in the August sun.

Aslan says this was his fourth visit to Israel in a decade, and that in his experience, entering Israel had gotten worse each time.

Aslan reported that at the end of his interrogation, he was warned not to enter the Palestinian territories or "speak to any Palestinians or any Israeli trouble makers." In addition, Aslan says he was told: “I may let you into Israel but, who knows, I may not let you out. I will keep you here and kick out your family. It depends on you. You would miss your kids yes? We are watching you.”

Aslan, who was born in Iran and whose family fled the Iranian revolution in 1979 to the United States, said on Twitter that his interrogator asked him “Who did your father work for in Iran?”

The author claims that when he told her he was seven years old when he left and thus didn't know, he was told: “Oh Mr Scholar! You can tell me everything about the Ottoman Empire but you don’t know your own father’s history?”

Visitors from Muslim and Arab descent are often detained and questioned at Israel's border. Recently, many reports have emerged concerning the detention of Israelis and Jews who are critical of Israel at the borders or in the airport.

In addition to Peter Beinart's detention, Israel's Tanya Rubinstein was detained and questioned upon her return in May from a conference in Sweden. In June, Israeli Yehudit Ilani was questioned upon her return from covering preparations for a flotilla to the Gaza Strip on behalf of Israel Social TV. And in July, Israeli Moriel Rothman-Zecher was detained and questioned about his ties with the left-wing organization Breaking the Silence.

Several American Jews have undergone similar questioning. Last month, Meyer Koplow, who has donated millions of dollars to Israeli schools and hospitals, was questioned at the airport on his way home from Israel because a Palestinian leaflet was found in his suitcase. And last week, two left-wing American Jewish activists, Simone Zimmerman and Abby Kirschbaum, were questioned when they entered Israel through the Taba border crossing from Egypt. Zimmerman and Kirschbaum said that inter alia, they were asked what they thought of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Think you know all about Israel's questioning of left-wing activists? Put your knowledge to the test with this Haaretz quiz: