Israel rejects entry to human rights activists
Center for Constitutional Rights Executive Director and Board Chair Both Denied Entry into Israel, Trip planned to witness human rights situation in Israel and Palestine. American Jews once stood at the vanguard of the civil rights and human rights movement in America, but today too many remain silent about increases extremism by Israel’s government and Israeli government policies denying established human rights activists from entering the country
Vincent Warren, executive director of the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), and Katherine Franke, chair of CCR’s board and Sulzbacher Professor of Law, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at Columbia University, were detained Sunday, April 29, for 14 hours and interrogated at Ben Gurion International Airport, then denied entry into Israel and deported, arriving back in New York early Monday morning. Warren and Franke were questioned about their political association with human rights groups that have been critical of Israel’s human rights record.
“The Israeli government denied us entry, apparently because it feared letting in people who might challenge its policies. This is something that we should neither accept nor condone from a country that calls itself a democracy,” Warren said. “Our trip sought to explore the intersection of Black and Brown people’s experiences in the U.S. with the situation of Palestinians, and Israel could not have made that connection clearer.”
Warren and Franke were part of a trip that brought together mostly Black and Brown civil and human rights leaders working on domestic U.S. justice issues who have not had an opportunity to visit Palestine and Israel. The justice delegation was planned to provide an opportunity to better understand the human rights situation in Israel and Palestine, including the history of systematic displacement and institutional racism, as well as the work of human rights defenders there.
Over the next several days, members of the group who were allowed entry will meet with a variety of prominent legal advocacy and human rights organizations, academics, and community leaders in Israel and Palestine, as well as visit various impacted communities. The group is posting about its visit on social media at #JusticeDelegation.
“My interrogation in Tel Aviv made it clear that I was banned from entering Israel because of my work in the U.S. on behalf of Palestinian rights,” said Franke, who is also a member of the executive committee of Columbia’s Center for Palestine Studies. “No government is immune from criticism for its human rights record. The abusive treatment Vince Warren and I received at Ben Gurion airport ironically illustrates how the state of Israel refuses to respect the political and civil rights of its own citizens, of Palestinians, and of human rights defenders globally.”
Israel has a well-known history of denying human rights advocates and other possible critics of its policies entry to Israel, even if those individuals only seek to visit and meet with Palestinians—whose borders Israeli fully controls.
Israel’s denial of entry to foreign citizens must be seen in the context of its ongoing efforts to repress human rights activism within Israel and Palestine, and its regular denial of entry to Palestinians, including U.S. citizens of Palestinian origin. It has been 70 years since the mass killing and eviction of Palestinians by the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948, 50 years of Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, and 11 years of its punitive closure of Gaza, whose residents have been shot and killed in nonviolent protests in recent weeks. Meanwhile, Israel continues to expand its West Bank settlements, annex East Jerusalem, and increase attacks on human rights defenders and incarceration of political prisoners.
The Center for Constitutional Rights is dedicated to advancing and protecting the rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Founded in 1966 by attorneys who represented civil rights movements in the South, CCR is a non-profit legal and educational organization committed to the creative use of law as a positive force for social change. Visit www.ccrjustice.org and follow @theCCR.
Bio of Vince Warren
Vincent Warren is the Executive Director of the Center for Constitutional Rights. He oversees CCR’s groundbreaking litigation and advocacy work, which includes using international and domestic law to hold corporations and government officials accountable for human rights abuses; challenging racial, gender, and LGBT injustice; combating abusive immigration policies and Muslim profiling; and stopping the illegal expansion of U.S. presidential power and policies such as illegal detention at Guantanamo and torture. Prior to his tenure at CCR, Vince was a national senior staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union, where he litigated civil rights cases, focusing on affirmative action, racial profiling, and criminal justice reform. Vince was also involved in monitoring South Africa’s historic Truth and Reconciliation Commission hearings, and worked as a criminal defense attorney for the Legal Aid Society in Brooklyn. He is a graduate of Haverford College and Rutgers School of Law.
Vince is a frequent guest on MSNBC and Democracy Now! and has appeared on Moyers & Company with Bill Moyers, CNN, and Fox News. His writing has been featured in the New York Times Room for Debate, the Guardian, on the Huffington Post, and on CNN.com, among other publications.
Vince is the recipient of many awards, including the New York State Bar Association’s Committee on Civil Rights 2016 Haywood Burns Memorial Award; the New York State Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers 2015 Justice Award; the Rutgers Law School Alumni Association 2012 Fannie Baer Besser Award for Public Service; and the CUNY School of Law 2012 Distinguished Public Service Award. He gave the keynote speech at Yale Law School’s 2015 Rebellious Lawyering Conference, and the 2013 Clarence Clyde Ferguson, Jr. Human Rights Lecture at Howard Law School.