Four members of an American human rights delegation to Israel and Palestine were deported to the US by Israeli authorities following their detention at Ben Gurion International Airport over the weekend. The activists, who were part of the “Justice Delegation”, included 19 prominent civil rights and social justice leaders from the US, including law professors, lawyers and heads of civil rights organisations.
Centre for Constitutional Rights (CCR), who organised the delegation, said their goal was to “witness the human rights situation in Israel and Palestine, including the history of systematic displacement and institutional racism, as well as the work of human rights defenders there.”
Their visit came on the back of the death of 47 Palestinians who were shot by Israeli snipers along the Gaza border.
Two of the four deported are Vincent Warren, executive director of CCR, and Katherine Franke, chair of CCR’s board and Sulzbacher Professor of Law, Gender and Sexuality Studies at Columbia University. The two others who were deported did not want to be named or interviewed.
Israeli officials said that the reason for the deportation of the activists was their support for the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement.
Speaking to Democracy Now, Franke said that Israeli officials “screamed” at her in Ben Gurion airport and accused her of “promoting BDS in Palestine”. Frank explained that she was not and the idea of “promoting BDS in Palestine” was “ludicrous”.
In any case, the delegation confirmed that none of them were on any designated Israeli blacklist related to BDS activism and that they had been granted visas by Israel for the visit. Furthermore, members of the delegation reported that they had passed passport control with their visas in hand, which would not have been possible if they were on any Israeli blacklist.
While being interrogated at the baggage control area, Israeli officials accused members of the delegation of promoting BDS. According to Franke, who told the airport guard they were visiting to “witness and testify to the kinds of human rights violations [we were seeing there], not to engage in any BDS-related activity,” the Israeli officials googled her on right-wing, pro-Israeli “trolling sites”, which accused her of being “committed to the destruction of Israel” and of being anti-Semitic.
During her interview with Democracy Now, Franke mentioned that while she was being interrogated, the president of Columbia University walked by her and was leaving the country while they were detained in the airport. While Franke did not accuse the university where she lecturers of shunning her, she questioned the ethical code of Columbia University, which she said is planning on or thinking about opening a global centre in Tel Aviv; a centre, she explained, which students at Columbia University cannot visit.