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As I wrote in a diary on Monday, Israel detained me last month as I tried to enter through the Tel Aviv airport on an interfaith trip and for my cousin's wedding. As any U.S. citizen would, I called the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv for help.  

I was shocked when the first question the embassy staffer asked me is: "Are you Jewish?"

This is the conversation I recall having with Chris Kain at the US Embassy in Tel Aviv by telephone:


CK:  Hello.  I got your number from ___.  You are being questioned by the Israeli authorities, I understand.  

ST:  They are threatening to deny me entry and to deport me.

CK:  Are you Jewish?

ST: No

CK:  Have you been in contact with the Israeli government or military in the past?

ST:  No

CK:  Have you been here before?

ST:  Yes, several times. I am a Palestinian with family in the West Bank.

CK:  Oh, you have family in the West Bank.  Then there is nothing I can do to help you.  In fact, if I interceded on your behalf, it will hurt your case with the Israelis.

ST:  I don't understand.  You are saying you can't speak with them.  You have no influence.  They are demanding to access my gmail account.

CK:  If they have your gmail address, they can get in without your password.

ST:  What do you mean?  How?

CK:  They're good!

ST:  This is crazy.  You mean you know about these requests to access emails and you have no problem with it.

CK:  It is in our travel warning.  They won't harm you.  You will be sent home on the next flight out.I hope I have been of good service to you.

ST:  Frankly, you have done nothing for me.

CK:  Well at least you can say I did it kindly.

Here is Associated Press reporter Matt Lee at a State Department Press Briefing asking about my case.  Relevant portion below begins around the 9:30 mark:

The State Department ethically and religious profiled me and told me they could do nothing to help intercede on my behalf with an allied country.

So, I endured eight hours of interrogation by Israeli Shin Bet officials who accused me of being a terrorist because I would not surrender my privacy rights by giving them access to my personal email account.

I was forced to stay overnight in a prison and was then deported back to the United States.

Sadly, my case is far from unique.  Israel often denies Palestinian-Americans entry.  Many Palestinians have come forward recently to share their ordeals in trying to enter the country.  

Not only are Palestinian-Americans targeted for denial of entry by Israel. Israel engages in systematic profiling of Arab- and Muslim-Americans too, and frequently deports anyone who seeks to visit, or show solidarity with, Palestinians.

It is shameful that the U.S. State Department did absolutely nothing to help a U.S. citizen in distress and has adopted the same racial, ethnic and religious profiling that Israel employs.

Recently, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano unbelievably praised  Israel’s discriminatory airport policies! “Israel has perfected a system that works very well there,” she said. “They do a terrific job.” This is simply wrong.

Please sign my petition to the State Department right now, telling them that it is "unacceptable for the U.S. Embassy to engage in such blatant discrimination. We demand that the Department of State issue clear guidelines to its embassy in Tel Aviv and consulate in Jerusalem that embassy employees are to respond immediately to all requests for assistance from U.S. citizens irrespective of their religion or ethnicity."

I will be in Washington, DC on June 26 to meet with State Department representatives from Consular Affairs and the Near East Bureau.  Will you help me get to 20,000 signatures.

Text of the petition:

Dear Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton,

We, the undersigned U.S. citizens, are writing to express our profound outrage at the treatment of U.S. citizen Sandra Tamari by the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv, which recently refused to assist her while being interrogated by Israel at Ben-Gurion Airport. Ms. Tamari was asked by the U.S. Embassy whether she is Jewish and was then refused assistance based on her response that she is Palestinian.

It is patently unacceptable for the U.S. Embassy to engage in such blatant discrimination. We demand that the Department of State issue clear guidelines to its embassy in Tel Aviv and consulate in Jerusalem that embassy employees are to respond immediately to all requests for assistance from U.S. citizens irrespective of their religion or ethnicity.

Furthermore, Ms. Tamari and two other U.S. citizens, Najwa Doughman and Sasha Al-Sarabi, were subject to blatant racial profiling by Israel and intrusive demands that they allow the Israeli government access to their private email accounts. They were detained overnight in a detention facility, without access to their luggage, passports or phones, and were deported the next morning. These practices by Israel are part of a systematic pattern to target Palestinian-, Arab-, and Muslim-Americans, as well as anyone seeking to visit or show solidarity with Palestinian family or friends, thereby denying them entry to Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories based solely on their ethnic or religious background and/or their political beliefs.

The United States gives Israel more than $3 billion of weapons every year, weapons which are misused by Israel to commit human rights abuses of and to oppress Palestinians. We demand that the United States marshal its extensive leverage with Israel to formally demand an immediate end to its systematic policies of racial and political profiling of U.S. citizens and its violations of their privacy.

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