Harmeet Sooden, travelling on his Canadian passport, was forcibly deported from Israel on June 18th after being held incommunicado for 4 days in Israeli detention. Harmeet was refused entry into Israel after being told by airport officials that he was a ‘threat to the security of the State of Israel’. Harmeet, along with Tom Fox, Norman Kember, and fellow Canadian James Loney, was kidnapped in November 2005 and held in captivity for four months while working with the Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) in Iraq. Tom Fox was executed by his kidnappers.
When asked about his experience attempting to enter Israel, Harmeet replied, “It dredged up some old feelings. I told them (honestly) that I had come to revisit Yad Vashem, visit historic sites and volunteer for the ISM [International Solidarity Movement]. They never disclosed the official reason for denying me entry”. ISM is a Palestinian-led movement committed to non-violent grassroots resistance to the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land.
Harmeet arrived at Ben Gurion Airport early in the morning on June 14th. He was immediately questioned by airport authorities who informed him that he was to be denied entry to Israel and deported that very night. He was then transferred to the “Unit 9” detention facility. He was denied access to his lawyer. While passively resisting the first attempt to deport him, Harmeet was subjected to physical and verbal abuse, all the while maintaining that he be allowed to contact his lawyer. Some of the violence against him was conducted in front of a shocked flight crew. The pilot then refused to fly with Harmeet on-board. He was eventually deported without incident accompanied by two airline security officers and finally arrived in New Zealand on June 20th.
Harmeet now says he is contemplating making an official complaint to the Canadian Government for his treatment at the hands of the Israeli authorities.
Harmeet said this visit was of special significance to him. He wanted to thank the people of Palestine and Israel who appealed for his release during the hostage crisis by supporting the non-violent movement in Palestine.
Number of people denied entry into Israel up 61 percent since 2005
To view original article, published in Haaretz on the 15th June, click here
The number of people who have been refused entry into Israel rose by 61 percent in two years, from 1,828 in 2005 to 2,941 in 2007, according to the Interior Ministry’s Population Administration.
The Central Bureau of Statistics, meanwhile, shows a rise in the number of entries into Israel during that period, but by a much smaller rate of only 19 percent – from 1.92 million entries to 2.29 million.
The Entry to Israel Law grants the Interior Minister extensive powers to prevent foreigners from entering the country. It does not require the minister to elaborate on the reason for the refusal, but it is assumed that most people refused entry were those the authorities feared would remain here illegally either to seek work or join family members from the former Soviet Union.
It is also possible that some people were suspected of planning protests. During the second intifada, groups of human rights activists were turned away.
For example, in the summer of 2002, 300 people from Italy were planning to take part in a human chain in Jerusalem, but were denied entry. The first 40 were turned away at Ben-Gurion International Airport, and the rest chose not to come.
At the end of May, an American political science professor, Norman Finkelstein, was not allowed into the country, although he is Jewish and would be allowed in by the Law of Return. The Interior Ministry explained the decision by saying it had followed the instructions of the Shin Bet security service. Finkelstein, a harsh critic of Israel, had met in Lebanon with Hezbollah activists and visited the graves of members of the group.
Among other examples is a Filipino woman, Daisy Baril, who last December was denied entry and held for three weeks in detention. The authorities said they were concerned that Baril would stay in Israel because she was in a romantic relationship with an Israeli man.
At the end of 2005, six Turkish nationals arrived at the Haifa port hidden in a shipping container. They had intended to reach Italy, and each had paid between 1,000 and 1,500 euros to be smuggled there. Israel sent them back to Turkey.