Minister of Public Security Gilad Erdan
Dear Prime Minister and Ministers,
We write to you on behalf of the Committee on Academic Freedom of the Middle East Studies Association of North America (MESA) to communicate our outrage over the interrogation, deportation, and apparent banning from Israel of Professor Katherine Franke, Sulzbacher Professor of Law, Gender and Sexuality Studies at the Las School of Columbia University, and Attorney Vincent Warren, Executive Director of the Center for Constitutional Rights in New York.
MESA was founded in 1966 to promote scholarship and teaching on the Middle East and North Africa. The preeminent organization in the field, MESA publishes the International Journal of Middle East Studies and has nearly 3,000 members worldwide. MESA is committed to ensuring academic freedom of expression, both within the region and in connection with the study of the region in North America and elsewhere.
We have written you previously (10 March 2017: https://mesana.org/advocacy/committee-on-academic-freedom/2017/03/10/travel-ban-for-supporters-of-boycott-of-israel) in order to express our grave concern over the 6 March 2017 decision taken by the Knesset to impose a travel ban on some twenty civil society organizations which have indicated their support for nonviolent opposition to the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem, and the ongoing besiegement of the Gaza Strip, in the form of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement.
As we wrote to you on 10 March 2017, the anti-BDS travel ban “introduces an ideological litmus test for anyone entering the country.” The concern appears justified in light of the recent mistreatment of Professor Franke, Mr. Warren, and two other unnamed members of a 19-person human rights delegation that was traveling to Israel and the West Bank. Their group was set to meet with Israeli and Palestinian individuals and organizations that are involved with documenting human rights violations in Israel and the Occupied Territories.
Professor Franke and Mr. Warren were pulled aside for additional questioning upon their arrival at Ben-Gurion International Airport on Sunday, 29 April. After 14 hours of interrogation, Franke was accused by the Strategic Affairs Ministry of playing a “prominent role” in Jewish Voice for Peace, one of the organizations on the aforementioned blacklist. When she denied the claim, Franke was accused of lying. After what appears to have been a summary decision taken “on the spot”, Franke, Warren, and two of their traveling companions were instructed that they had to leave the country immediately and were then informed that they would thenceforth be prohibited from entering Israel.
We condemn the arbitrary interrogation and unjustified deportation of Professor Franke, Mr. Warren, and their two anonymous colleagues. The State of Israel is demonstrating to the world that it is uninterested in free and open debate—including within the Jewish community—in matters pertaining to international law, human rights, and the legitimate voices of the Palestinian people. We therefore call upon the State of Israel to uphold the values of a democratic society and polity, to permit civil discourse, including criticism of its policies and practices, to reject this ideological litmus test for entry into the country, and to lift this arbitrary travel ban
We look forward to your response.
Judith E. Tucker
Professor, Georgetown University
Amy W. Newhall
MESA Executive Director