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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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Comment Preferences

  •  Stories like yours (7+ / 0-)

    put the lie to Israel's claim to be a Western democracy.

    Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free
    ¡Boycott Arizona!

    by litho on Fri Jun 15, 2012 at 09:35:12 AM PDT

  •  While I am on your side here (8+ / 0-)

    I am not sure what you expect the state department to do about it. Israel is well within their rights to deny anybody they please entry into their country. No matter how absurd, offensive or otherwise stupid the reasons may be.

    Republican Family Values: Using the daughters from your first wife to convince everybody that your second wife is lying about your third wife.

    by jsfox on Fri Jun 15, 2012 at 09:40:46 AM PDT

  •  Petition signed. Thanks for the opportunity. (8+ / 0-)

    "The Global War on Terror is a justification for U.S. Imperialism. It must be stopped."

    by BigAlinWashSt on Fri Jun 15, 2012 at 10:06:07 AM PDT

  •  As long as Israel can decide who gets into and out (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Dave in Northridge, Frank Knarf

    of Palestinian territory this is an internal decision that the US can only pressure (if it wanted to , which it doesn't). None of this will change unless there is a two state solution or if Israel officially takes all the territory and grants  citizenship to all the Palestinians. Short of Rabbis telling the settlers that fundamentalist reading of the Bible is meshuge and the Imams admit the Koran was adapted from the Judeao-Chrisitan Bible and that a fundamentalist interpretation is majoon,  nothing changes.

    I'd tip you but they cut off my tip box.

    by OHdog on Fri Jun 15, 2012 at 10:08:44 AM PDT

  •  Did they "profile" you? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Frank Knarf

    In my mind "religious profiling" would suggest they have formal or informal policies of only helping certain religions or ethnicities, but not others. Or did they simply ask questions that would determine who they might need to intercede with, or as it turns out determining whether intercession would be beneficial or not?

    from a bright young conservative: “I’m watching my first GOP debate…and WE SOUND LIKE CRAZY PEOPLE!!!!”

    by Catte Nappe on Fri Jun 15, 2012 at 10:43:52 AM PDT

    •  What it sounds like is that (3+ / 0-)

      she was profiled by Israel. Israel has never made a secret of, nor apology for racial, religious, and ethnic profiling. They make it exponentially more difficult for Arab travelers seeking entry because they view them as a higher security risk.

      What exactly we would have the State Department do about that is something of a puzzling question, since we're not generally in the habit of telling other countries what to do WRT foreign visitors. Where there is an issue is if the State Department (or any US agency) would have been able and willing to do more for someone of a different race, creed, or religion. Soy's transcript suggests to me that the State Department official was reacting based on how he believed Israeli authorities would treat a visitor like Soy seeking entry. If we acknowledge that it is easier for Jewish visitors to gain entry through Israeli customs than Arab visitors--and I don't know anyone who would suggest otherwise--then I don't see how the question about Soy being Jewish wasn't relevant. It's a major factor as to whether or not the official would be able to impact the situation in a positive manner.

      The real shame is in how Israel treated someone who is a strong voice for peace.

      Unapologetic Obama supporter.

      by Red Sox on Fri Jun 15, 2012 at 10:56:32 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I don't get it... (8+ / 0-)

    I can't see why your being Jewish would matter from the US State Department's view. What if you were atheist? Hindu?

    I don't like how Israel treats Palestine and I would like to see Palestine as a fully functioning nation alongside Israel. But under current circumstances I am not sure I can comment one way or the other about how Israel treated you other that to say it sucks you had to go through it.

    But if you are a US citizen then that is all the US State Department should need to know. Now it may well be that it is best for them to keep out of it, but that should be the case for ANYONE. Either the US State Department should have a policy of helping or a policy of hands off, which ever they think more appropriate. But they should not change that approach depending on a person's religion.

    FREEDOM ISN'T FREE: That's why we pay taxes. I Had A Thought

    by mole333 on Fri Jun 15, 2012 at 10:56:23 AM PDT

    •  US State department can't help a US citizen (0+ / 0-)

      gain entry to another country. Asking whether the person is Jewish may be inappropriate but that's it. The diarist real problems are with Israelis.

      •  I know that... (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        PeterHug, FG, Terra Mystica

        But the initial question about is she Jewish is wrong from what I can tell.

        I disagree with the diarist's overall premise about Israel (at least partly) but I do agree with her about the question from the State Dept.

        FREEDOM ISN'T FREE: That's why we pay taxes. I Had A Thought

        by mole333 on Fri Jun 15, 2012 at 12:59:33 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  No it's not (0+ / 0-)

          If you think that religion isn't a part of the security and political issues between Israel and Palestine, you haven't been paying attention for the last, I don't know, sixty years.

          $20 bucks says World War 3 starts at the Temple Mount.

          GOD! Save me from your followers.

          by adversus on Fri Jun 15, 2012 at 01:55:48 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  In Israel it's a very relevant question for (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Catte Nappe

          obvious reasons. Yes, it would have been wrong if they discriminated against the person depending on the answer but there is no evidence that it happened. I don't really understand what the diarist actually wants from the Department of State.

      •  It's not an inappropriate question -- (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Catte Nappe

        Indeed, it's an important one.  Jews have a right of return, right of entry, and right to claim citizenship in Israel.  If she were a Jew the embassy would have helped her thread that needle.

        Not being a jew, and being a (detested-by-the-Israeli-state) Palestinian, there's really not much that the state department could do.

    •  Think about it.... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Catte Nappe, Praxical

      It is relevant, whether or not Soy is Jewish because the outcome she desired - entry into Israel- was dependent on it and that is why the State Department asked it.

      I think maybe he could have phrased it nicely, but the Embassy rep, he made it quite clear that due to her ethnicity (Palestinian) that interference from the U.S. Embassy would actually cause the Israeli's to treat her in a worse manner.  Now, I believe ( and I wasn't there) that the way it was phrased to her recollection, she could have insisted on the Embassy intervening, but what kind of outcome would that have engendered?

      I think that Americans, living in a melting pot have largely forgotten that most of the world doesn't work the same way that the U.S. does in terms of religion and ethnicity. (Although there are still areas in the US, such as the South, where religion and color matter deeply)  That there are regions where the differences between a Moslem and Christian and Jew could mean life and death. And while I understand how upset and helpless she felt, it is unrealistic to say that her ethnicity and family should not have mattered and that the Embassy should have ridden in on a white horse and swept her away into the country, rules, laws and sovereignty be damned.

      •  Don't agree... (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        sofia, Terra Mystica

        When I was in Israel, Christians and Muslim tourists had as much if not more of a stake in the religious significance of being in Israel than my wife and I had (both of us are Jewish).

        The territory that falls under the terms "Israel," "Palestine" and "Levant" is of considerable emotional and spiritual importance to multiple religions.

        Then we come to the US State Dept. One of my key issues with the US is how it should be STRICTLY secular. Which means when it comes to this issue an American Citizen who is Jewish or Muslim or Christian or Atheist should be treated equally...even if that means the US State Dept. can't help ANY of them.

        It bothers me ANY time when religion enters into government policy in the US.

        FREEDOM ISN'T FREE: That's why we pay taxes. I Had A Thought

        by mole333 on Fri Jun 15, 2012 at 01:07:28 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Emotional, spiritual vs legal (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          volleyboy1, Praxical

          The embassy worker presumably has a mental decision tree. Under the laws of Israel I can do this, this, this and this if the US citizen is Jewish. Or I can not do this or this if the US citizen is not Jewish. Thus it becomes essential for the employee to determine which category the citizen fits into.

          from a bright young conservative: “I’m watching my first GOP debate…and WE SOUND LIKE CRAZY PEOPLE!!!!”

          by Catte Nappe on Fri Jun 15, 2012 at 01:38:59 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Religion is a red herring here. (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            downsouth

            There are Palestinian Christians, and Palestinian Jews (not very many) and Palestinian Muslims. The account said the word which made the difference was only "Palestinian.'

            •  In some ways, yes it's a red herring (0+ / 0-)

              If a host country had a policy that those wearing brown socks can enter freely, those wearing white socks cannot enter at all, and those wearing argyle socks might enter only if they are also wearing suspenders; then the first question embassy staff will ask is "what color socks are you wearing". Or maybe the critical difference is the word "suspenders".

              However, the comment I was responding to was indicating that many faith traditions, other than Jewish, have an emotional or spiritual connection to the region. I responded in that context.

              from a bright young conservative: “I’m watching my first GOP debate…and WE SOUND LIKE CRAZY PEOPLE!!!!”

              by Catte Nappe on Fri Jun 15, 2012 at 05:37:33 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

        •  You've got a generous view of the world. Make (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          downsouth, sofia

          it stick, please.  :)

          •  Thanks (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            sofia, Terra Mystica

            I disagree strongly with those who are telling me the embassy worker was right in putting whether she was Jewish first and foremost in his decision tree. Personally if an atheist isn't treated the same as a Jew in this kind of situation (in other situations the exact religious affiliations or lack there of may differ) by a representative of the US government, something seriously bothers me.

            As to my generous view of the world, I may be too cynical to maintain that generous view, but at the same time I do try to make it stick...And I appreciate the encouragement.

            FREEDOM ISN'T FREE: That's why we pay taxes. I Had A Thought

            by mole333 on Sat Jun 16, 2012 at 02:35:54 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

      •  She wasn't going to Israel. She was going to (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Flyswatterbanjo, downsouth

        Palestine.  Israel is not Palestine, yet Israel controls Palestine, yet Israel deems Palestine as part of Israel.  See the conundrum?

        And as far as the "melting pot" concept goes, that is precisely why this line of questioning and subsequent complete deference to the intervening state is so objectionable.  There's 300M stories in this country, 290M of them immigrant stories, and OUR government should act like it and represent all of us overseas.  

        What happened to soy is an example of how not to represent our country to the rest of the world.  We are or maybe can be different.  In this case we acted like a fourth-rate power to one of our own.  Shameful.

    •  That makes no sense. The official was asking for (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Catte Nappe, volleyboy1

      context that would be useful under the circumstances.  You are suggesting that remaining willfully blind to that context would be smart policy.

      Where are we, now that we need us most?

      by Frank Knarf on Fri Jun 15, 2012 at 12:19:48 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Not exactly... (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        PeterHug, socalmonk, sofia, Terra Mystica

        Context for the US State Dept. should be whether someone is a US citizen. Period.

        I haven't faulted Israel's actions so far, as outlined by the diarist. But I don't think the State Department of the US should have been treating a Jew different from a Muslim from an atheist from a...

        I am not suggesting willful blindness. I am suggesting adhering to the separation of Church and State that our nation is SUPPOSED to be founded on.

        FREEDOM ISN'T FREE: That's why we pay taxes. I Had A Thought

        by mole333 on Fri Jun 15, 2012 at 01:02:44 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  What the context for the State Dept is: (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          volleyboy1

          The laws of the host country. Being a US citizen is what got soy the phone conversation at all.  Beyond that, it appears that being Jewish or not, (and having connections in the West Bank, or not) are of significant importance to the Israelis and their laws, so that's the context the embassy employee works with.

          from a bright young conservative: “I’m watching my first GOP debate…and WE SOUND LIKE CRAZY PEOPLE!!!!”

          by Catte Nappe on Fri Jun 15, 2012 at 01:43:05 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  Reccd for the use of Palestine as a noun. :) (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      downsouth

      Big hearted.  Genuine.  Sincerely.  

  •  Signed, shared (4+ / 0-)

    and forwarded.  This was blatant racism on the part of the US, that supports the blatant racism of those who detained you. I am fairly certain had you answered, "Spanish" or "Italian" none of this would have happened to you.

  •  I suggest no one sign. (0+ / 0-)

    I also think it is not a factual statement that the diarist was refused assistance based on her response that she is Palestinian.

    Jews and others are also excluded from entry and the US Govt. cannot assist them either. It understands the legal concept of sovereign equality of states.

    The burden is on the diarist and it has not been met. There is no discrimination here. The first question, and there is nothing to corroborate the veracity of the conversation provided, could easily be described as informational.  

    What does the diarist suggest that the US Govt. do? Declare the Israeli conduct jus cogens and invade?

    There are two sides to ever story. As someone intimated in the other diary, if the purpose was to attend a wedding, then was it a wise move for the diarist to wear her politics on her sleeve and help precipitate an event?

    In my opinion, the State Dept. has far more important things to do than assist in a personal vendetta.

    •  Well (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Terra Mystica
      As someone intimated in the other diary, if the purpose was to attend a wedding, then was it a wise move for the diarist to wear her politics on her sleeve and help precipitate an event?
      This really ought not to matter. Whether it was wise or not, I don't think Soy owes any obligation to pretend to be someone who she's not. The question is whether the State Department acted wrongly here, and it's difficult to see where they did. Israel, OTOH, it's quite easy to see where they acted wrongly.

      Unapologetic Obama supporter.

      by Red Sox on Fri Jun 15, 2012 at 11:09:34 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  But it does matter. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        JNEREBEL

        Anyone that crosses international borders on a regular basis knows this.

        Not copping an attitude with passport control is a no brainer.

        It is not a matter of pretending to be someone else.

        As for the State Dept., we have only one side of a story presented, from a person with an agenda no less. And since it did not act wrongfully, which you say, then there is no basis for the petition.

        As for Israel, I suggest that it acted according to law, and would be interested in information that shows where it committed a violation.

    •  And I suggest you be ignored. n/t (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Flyswatterbanjo, socalmonk
  •  Why has this issue stopped being raised at the (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    socalmonk, Terra Mystica

    State Dept. press briefings?  Have they started excluding Matt Lee from the briefings?  Or did Matt Lee somehow get an answer to his questions (presumably somewhere other than the press briefings)?

    The influence of the [executive] has increased, is increasing, and ought to be diminished.

    by lysias on Fri Jun 15, 2012 at 11:26:41 AM PDT

  •  Can only reiterate my comment from your last post (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Terra Mystica

    that stayed on the Rec list for a whole day before I came to it, late.

    Interesting how Israel is only receptive to US diplomatic advocacy if the American being abused by Israeli  authorities is a Jew.
    I suspect that US diplomats have seen punitive measures take against non-Jewish US citizens when they have tried to intercede on their behalf. They've been successfully conditioned not to raise so much as a peep about these abuses.  

    Either way it doesn't reflect well on the give and take you would expect in the relationship between the two governments.

    This subsequent part of my comment remains true (and especially for internet activists IMHO).

    Why would any non-Jewish American even want to travel to Israel if they risk being denied entry in a Kafkaesque nightmare, for having expressed an opinion out of compliance with Israeli policy on the internet?  

    "We don't need someone who can think. We need someone with enough digits to hold a pen." ~ Grover Norquist

    by Lefty Coaster on Fri Jun 15, 2012 at 12:03:57 PM PDT

    •  If that has ever happened, it should have caused (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      downsouth, socalmonk, Terra Mystica

      a stiff protest, or even sterner action.

      I suspect that US diplomats have seen punitive measures take against non-Jewish US citizens when they have tried to intercede on their behalf. They've been successfully conditioned not to raise so much as a peep about these abuses.  
      When Eisenhower cut off U.S. aid to Israel in 1953, the cutoff only lasted a few months, because Israel quickly backed down over the issue that had caused the cutoff.

      The influence of the [executive] has increased, is increasing, and ought to be diminished.

      by lysias on Fri Jun 15, 2012 at 12:48:56 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I've lived 11 years on the other side of the (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Catte Nappe

    Pacific Ocean and the rule of thumb is that the American Embassy directly helps individuals in very limited circumstances. I have heard stories of them loaning indigent citizens return plane fare (while confiscating their passport to encourage repayment) and helping contact relatives  back in the USA when an American dies alone out here. So, I am not surprised with the Embassy response discussed in this diary. But, we do get a lot of warnings, so we can't say that they are of no help.

    I voted with my feet. Good Bye and Good Luck America!!

    by shann on Fri Jun 15, 2012 at 12:34:12 PM PDT

  •  Signed.. (6+ / 0-)

    ..tipped and rec'd.   The US State dept. should not be asking US citizens their ethnicity or religion when they call for help -- doesn't matter what country the person is asking for help in.

  •  Tipped, rec'ed and signed. (5+ / 0-)

    I quit school very young, and never learned how to believe things just because I was told to.

    by socalmonk on Fri Jun 15, 2012 at 03:29:30 PM PDT

  •  There's a very good reason that they asked if (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Catte Nappe

    you were Jewish right off -- because Israel, by law, grants a lot of rights, including the Right of Return / Right of Entry to all jews and their spouses, regardless of whether or not they are Israeli citizens.  

    If you were Jewish, they'd actually have a way to help you.  As it stands, the Israeli government hates Palestinians and there's really nothing that the US could do to try to override them without spending massive political capital.

    Racial profiling, AFAIK, isn't illegal in Israel.  There's nothing that the US can do about it, again, without spending massive political capital -- and I think that just trying to get Israel not to bomb and colonize Palestine is a bigger issue, not that we're doing much on that.  

    While the staffer at the embassy could have spent more time explaining the nuances to you, the fact is that an embassy has no actual power in a foreign country (other than on the embassy property.)  They can berate, cajole, and threaten, but there's little point in doing so in a non-extraordinary case -- it just annoys the Israelis and wastes what influence the US has.

  •  wow. What a special relationship we have, huh? (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    downsouth, Terra Mystica

    Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.

    by Flyswatterbanjo on Fri Jun 15, 2012 at 09:24:20 PM PDT

  •  Thanks for the followup. Petition signed. Hope (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    downsouth, sofia, Flyswatterbanjo

    some good comes of it.  Some good (awareness) has already come from you going public with your treatment by Israel.

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