Tuesday, May 29, 2012

I am a Palestinian and I Refuse to be Silent

Below is an excerpt from the second trip report of the Interfaith Peace-Builders (IFPB) delegation to Palestine/Israel. 

My participation in the May 2012 delegation was blocked by Israeli officials at the airport who deemed me "a security risk." After an eight-hour wait with several interrogations, I couldn't help but laugh at the idea that a Quaker mother of two had the ability to be a risk to one of the most powerful countries in the world. 

The questions started at passport control. What is your father's name? What is your grandfather's name? I was immediately escorted to a dirty waiting room to await further interrogation. I was questioned no fewer than seven times and was asked directly, "Are you a terrorist?"

All this because I am a Palestinian and I refuse to be silent.

The Israelis demanded access to my gmail account. When I refused to provide my password, they said that I must be hiding something sinister. They obviously knew about my activism for Palestinian rights. They asked about my political activities at home and what organizations I worked with. 

I was taken to security to claim my suitcase. They went through my belongings thoroughly and searched me (but thankfully did not make me strip my clothes).

When they discovered that I had taken detailed notes about my interrogations, the lead interrogator was furious. He accused me of sound recording or photographing the questioning. He was especially interested in my notes about my phone conversation with a staffer at the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv. IFPB alerted the Embassy to my detention and the staffer had called me earlier at the airport.  I told them that the Embassy advised me to keep a record of my treatment. They seemed to be a little nervous at that point.

I was able to inform the delegation co-leader, my dear friend Anna, that I was being deported. She had been at my side throughout the entire ordeal prior to my search in security. I knew she was imagining the worst during my hour-long absence.

I was taken to a prison cell where I stayed for several hours and then driven onto a runway to board a commercial flight to Europe and then onto the States. How grateful I was to find Mike Daly of IFPB waiting for me at Dulles.  I was unable to reach my husband Steve from the airport in Frankfurt and no one was sure of my whereabouts for 12 hours. I feel especially sick about all the worry this caused to my family and friends. I am also so sorry to miss being on this trip with my amazing friend Nancy. We had been looking forward to sharing this time for months.

As I was sitting in prison waiting for my deportation, I could not help but think of the thousands of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli detention with no idea of when or if they will ever be released. I thought of the millions of Palestinians denied the right to return to their homeland by Israel. Israel has created and maintains through violence a Jewish majority at their expense.  My experiences of detention and deportation were scary. I am disappointed to be missing the delegation trip and my cousin's wedding in the West Bank on June 9, but my ordeal is only a small part of Israel's systematic oppression of Palestinians.  In fact, I am among the very lucky and privileged. I am at home now unharmed with my beautiful family.

My privilege demands that I speak fearlessly against the injustices of Israel against the Palestinian people. Count on hearing from me.