On two occasions last week Israeli officials at Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion International Airport refused entry to members of Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) who traveled to Israel to join CPT’s team in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.
On Tuesday July 2 a CPT reservist from the Netherlands was interrogated and held in the airport for 14 hours before being placed onto a flight home. Three days later a CPT reservist from the United States was also interrogated and held for 10 hours before being placed onto a flight home. Each CPTer had visited Israel-Palestine once or twice before. Both volunteers cooperated with the intensive questioning of Israeli security officials, who seemed most concerned with visas from the government of Iraqi Kurdistan that had been stamped in both CPTers’ passports in connection with their past CPT work.
CPT’s sudden inability to get team members into the country is especially worrying given Israeli authorities’ recent ban on CPT activities near the Ibrahimi Mosque in Al-Khalil, apparently intended to halt international nonviolent protective presence in the most sensitive and volatile area of the city — one of the vital functions of CPT’s Palestine project.
Since May 10, Israel’s Border Police have prohibited CPTers from wearing their uniform vests and hats, and from recording the obstructions imposed on Palestinians’ daily life, anywhere between the two main checkpoints that control Palestinian movement past the mosque complex, which also includes a synagogue and visitors’ center frequented by settlers.
Additionally, Israeli journalist Amira Hass reported in May that Israel is now forbidding “tourists from the United States and other countries to enter the territories under Palestinian Authority control without a military entry permit.” It is still unclear how Israel will enforce this restriction, or where and when it will facilitate permit applications.
Other international human rights organizations have been increasingly impacted by Israeli access restrictions. In recent months two members of Operation Dove, an Italian group working in the South Hebron Hills, were also stopped on arrival at Israel’s airport and turned back. Two others were constrained to a one-week visit, and could not extend their visas.
In response to these developments, CPT’s team in Palestine would like to initiate a quick “surge” of volunteers traveling through Israel to join its project within the next few weeks. This will help CPT better staff the project and uphold critical commitments in this interim period of very few team members. The results of this initiative will also help CPT to ascertain whether or not it is being targeted for removal by Israeli authorities.
1. Make a contribution today to help CPT fund several volunteers traveling to join its Palestine team in very quick succession. CPT relies primarily on individual donations to fulfill its travel and operating costs. Your gift of $20 or more will make a difference. Remember to designate “Palestine project” with your donation.
2. Share this alert with your community.
3. If you are a CPT reservist and able to come to Israel-Palestine within the next few weeks, please contact us. A scholarship may be available to reduce your fundraising obligations.