ISA Now 'Settler Profiling' at Ben-Gurion Airport

ISA reportedly intimidating right-wing activists, attempting to recruit informants; rights group condemns 'totalitarian' tactics.

Tova Dvorin ,

Crackdown on nationalists? (illustrative)
Crackdown on nationalists? (illustrative)
Yonatan Sindel/Flash 90

The Israel Security Agency (ISA or Shin Bet) is cracking down at Ben Gurion International Airport - not on terrorists, but on religious nationalists. 

Right-wing activists told Walla! News Friday that they and their families are being specifically targeted at Israel's only international airport when they return from abroad by ISA agents, who have placed them under special scrutiny.

Several victims told the daily that the ISA even tried to threaten them into cooperating with attempts to recruit them to the agency's special Jewish division that spies on nationalists - and that they and their families have been under surveillance ever since. 

One victim, a family from Samaria's Binyamin region, was detained as soon as they returned from a family vacation abroad. 

"At border control I suddenly see an official who looks at me strangely and tells me to accompany him to a room off to the side," the victim, who asked to remain anonymous, recounted. He had no idea why he was being detained. 

He and his family were held in a side room for several long minutes, and his terrified children began to cry. 

"When I asked what was happening and why we were delayed, no one answered me," he said. "I started photographing [what was going on] and they asked me to stop, but I refused. They called the police to try to stop me from filming and asked me to stop."

The man's wife and children were later released, but he was still left stranded and in the dark about why he was arrested. At that point, the police took him to the police station next to Ben Gurion and detained him for eight hours.

"They asked me to erase what I'd taken," he said. "I refused and was detained for eight hours with the police. While I understand that the ISA wanted to question me, in the end they never did - they just confiscated my phone after eight hours and deleted all the pictures I took."

He added that this was not the first such experience he had suffered with the ISA. 

"This was the second time they did this to me; the last time, I was only held for a few hours," he recounted. "Luckily, the kids were not with me the first time. This time, they were here, and I have no doubt it was to put pressure on me." 

Threats at the airport: 'move out of Judea'

Another right-wing activist who lives in Gush Etzion recently returned to Israel after a few months in the Far East. He recounted a similar ordeal - exacerbated by the fact that an administrative order has been given against him from returning to Judea or Samaria for six months.

"Even before the passport control, three people came to airport security, asked for a passport and asked if I was going to Gush Etzion - which did not appear on my passport - before leaving me," he said. 

Minutes later, as he was in Customs, he was subjected to a "routine examination" and physical search in a special room. Then "Dan" from the ISA and a security guard also appeared. 

He said he soon began to receive threats. "They took my cell phone and passport and everything and then Dan started to threaten me for half an hour or an hour," he recounted. "At first, I told him I wanted to update my family, who was waiting for me at the airport, but he refused and began to threaten me."

"Among other things, he said, 'I missed you. I'll take care of you like we take care of ISIS. You are a terrorist. You're cutting down the Arab's olive trees. You will see me on every street. Everywhere you go, you will be arrested. If you go to the Central Bus Station, I will stop you. I will give you another ban [from going home] and another ban, and another ban. You will not go home while you live, and certainly not go to Judea-Samaria. I suggest you now rent an apartment in Petah Tikva. I'll go to your family." 

At this point, according to activist, Dan began to threaten his little brother. "He told me, 'Do you think your little brother and some children from [the] Bat Ayin [Underground] are above the law? We'll put them in an asylum. I'll take them in the middle of the night and their mother will cry, and I will put them in an institution," Dan said.

The threats lasted several hours. "Finally he said, 'I have all day and you stay here as much as I want. Then he took my passport and cell phone and went to lunch for an hour and a half. He kept saying 'I'm going out for a cigarette and you will stay here for another two hours. After a few minutes, he returned and told me that the customs would let me go another two hours, put my stuff in my bags and then I got up and went."

"Before leaving, he told me: 'I do not care, tell all your friends what happened. I hate you and I hate them and you will not see Judea-Samaria."

"A totalitarian regime"

Legal rights group Honenu responded to the reports, noting that the ISA's profiling is "reminiscent of a totalitarian regime." 

"We regret that the Shin Bet's Jewish department staff choose to act in a manner reminiscent of totalitarian regimes, and to terrorize the Jews working for them and for their country," it said in a statement.

Honenu stressed that the investigations were conducted "without legal grounds for doing so" and called on the Shin Bet to focus on Arab terror in Jerusalem instead of on "settlers." 

The Shin Bet said in response, "without considering the exact details of the interrogation conducted on the citizens mentioned in your letter, we note that he was expelled from the West Bank by order of the commander of IDF forces in the area, due to the high danger inherent in their activities. It should be emphasized that the treatment was carried out according to the law and as designated by the Shin Bet."