My typical Christmas vacation for most of the past decade has been a month in the West Bank standing beside my Palestinian brothers and sisters in their nonviolent struggle against the U.S.-supported Israeli occupation. It’s a fight I picked. I choose to put myself in the middle of an occupation, and I’ve chosen to go where Israel has forbidden me to go.
I’ve stood with the savages against the brutality of Western civilization; I’ve used my white privilege and my nationality to move more freely within Palestine than the Palestinians, and I’ve been used as a human shield by the Israeli military. I’ve attended demonstrations, lobbied U.S. officials, written op-eds, published a number of other articles and toured the U.S. a number of times to bring this witness home. And, for all this, I’ve finally suffered the consequences: Israel sent my ass home.
I arrived at Ben Gurion Airport and made it to immigration. There, the immigration official asked me the same questions they’ve asked for years: “What is the purpose of your visit? How long will you stay in Israel? Do you plan to go to the West Bank? Do you know anyone in the West Bank? Do you know any Israelis? Have you been to any demonstrations?”
I gave them the same answers I’ve given for years. I assert that I am a tourist, that I do not keep in touch with anyone I meet in the West Bank, and I have many Israeli friends. After 10 hours of waiting and answering the same questions, an Israeli official told me, “I do not believe you are here as tourist. I believe you are here for other purposes,” and she set down on her desk in front of me a stack of papers about my peace activist activities in the U.S., Iraq, Afghanistan and Palestine. An hour later, I was escorted to a Turkish Airlines gate and flown back to Chicago.
As it becomes more commonplace to openly criticize Israeli apartheid and occupation, Israel has continued to look more closely at people entering the country. Suspected peace activists, human rights workers and even people who have publicly criticized the state of Israel are deemed a security risk, deported and banned from entering Israel for 10 years. The same week I was deported, an Irish activist was detained and deported. A few days later, two other international activists were taken into police custody, detained and deported.
Activists who’ve stood on the ground as witness to the occupation for years are now being turned away at the airport or being forced to sign statements that they will not enter the West Bank. The myth of a peace process is eroding.
These escalations in deportations and detentions cannot stop the flow of truth from behind the apartheid wall. The foundations of this occupation—silence, demonizing the occupied, the consent and unconditional support of the U.S., the cavalier labeling of critics as anti-Semitic—are eroding. The occupation cannot stand to bear the load indefinitely.