Tuesday, June 23, 2009

How To Sneak Into Israel If You're An "Internationalist"

From here:

...by the time I reached Israeli customs, I had practiced my story and betrayed nothing that would have any good Samaritans reporting me to the authorities in Tel Aviv. (Perhaps I’m being paranoid, but then again, maybe I’m not.)

Not that I plan on doing anything illegal, or that the organization I’ll be working for, ICAHD, is some sort of armed terrorist group. It is simply that the Israeli government, especially with its perception of endless threats, would logically try to keep people opposed to its policies out of the country. Therefore the concept of free speech – some would argue this is out of practical necessity – is not nearly as respected as it is in the US. The country has no formal constitution, but does have a special Military Censor, which is not shy about using the powers at its disposal. I’ve also been told that on occasion, Israeli customs will ask you to log into your email, then browse around at their leisure.

So with that in mind, I took exhaustive steps to cover my tracks once I got in.

- Any emails or chats containing the terms “Palestine, Palestinian, Israel, Israeli, West Bank, Ramallah, Zionist, Occupied Territories, Chomsky, Finkelstein, Hezbollah, Jewish state, IDF” were deleted. All emails from my friends in the West Bank were deleted.

- Any Palestinian numbers were deleted from my computer; the absolutely necessary ones were scrawled in my notebook under the heading “Health Insurance #s.”

- Any pages of my notebook that had anything Israel/Palestine-related scrawled upon them were torn out and thrown away.

- I brought with me a tourist’s guidebook to the area and left Post-It notes strategically throughout to mark places that I have no real intention of visiting (i.e. the Israeli Air Force museum).

- Found a person in Tel Aviv to be my “friend” who I was “staying with,” he was ready to validate my story to the authorities if they called him.

- And of course I spent hours inside my own mind conceiving every possible question that they could ask me, and my appropriate answer, and then their logical follow up question, etc. Fortunately/unfortunately I’m a terrible liar, so this kind of planning was necessary to keep my mind at rest if I wanted to arrive at customs without having soaked myself in a telling mixture of piss and sweat. If discussion of politics was unavoidable, I had started out with the intention of being gung-ho Zionist (Arabs are lice, Jews are an eternal victim-people), but opted for the more palatable “can’t we all get along” impotent peacenik approach to the conflict which attributed no responsibility to anybody and is probably quite common among fun-seeking international travelers.


Martijn Lauwens said...

This is reality. Lots of 'internationals', activists, healthworkers or journalists will recognize this story.

YMedad said...

and now, so do we locals