Israel apologizes over questioning of American activist

AP News
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Posted: Feb 09, 2017 12:19 PM

JERUSALEM (AP) — Israeli immigration officials on Thursday apologized over their treatment of a senior executive from a liberal Jewish-American group who was interrogated for an hour on her arrival in Tel Aviv the previous day.

Jennifer Gorovitz, a vice president of the New Israel Fund, said she was questioned about her nonprofit group's activities. The New Israel Fund supports a number of liberal, progressive groups in Israel, some of which have been criticized by the Israeli government.

"It was humiliating and emotionally scarring to find that, although I am a Jew and a Zionist, I might not be allowed into the country because I do not adhere to the government's ultra-right-wing ideology," Gorovitz said in a statement late Wednesday.

According to the statement, Gorovitz said the interviewer had a document with information about her that had highlighted the term "BDS" — an acronym for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement.

The international BDS movement seeks to ostracize Israel by lobbying corporations, artists and academic institutions to sever ties with the Jewish state. Supporters say the boycott is aimed at ending Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands, and that their efforts are modeled on the nonviolent movement against apartheid South Africa. Critics say the campaign goes far beyond Israel's policies in the West Bank and is aimed at delegitimizing and destroying Israel.

The New Israel Fund's statement said Gorovitz told the officer that the group does not support BDS, but that it "funds Israeli organizations that work toward human rights, democracy and equality for all Israelis."

Interior Ministry spokeswoman Sabine Haddad said the ministry later apologized to Gorovitz over any "unpleasantness" she may have experienced but not over the questioning itself.

Haddad said the questions were about Gorovitz's numerous visits to the country and not connected to BDS.

In December, a foreign activist involved in efforts to boycott Israel was denied entrance.

The New Israel Fund gives grants to numerous progressive causes in Israel, including the human rights group B'Tselem, and "Breaking the Silence," a group of former Israeli soldiers critical of Israeli military policies in the occupied West Bank.

Both groups have been harshly criticized by members of Israel's hard-line government, and on Thursday, Israel reprimanded Belgium's ambassador over his prime minister's meetings with members of the groups.

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This story has been corrected to show that Gorovitz was questioned upon arrival at Tel Aviv airport on Wednesday, not Thursday.