On May 29, returning from a regional staff retreat in Spain, Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) service worker Rachelle Friesen of Winnipeg, Man., Canada, was detained by Israeli authorities at Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion Airport.
After more than 30 hours of detention, including three sessions of interrogation, Friesen was deported back to the origin of her flight in Barcelona, and is now banned from entering Israel for 10 years.
Friesen was met in Barcelona by MCC colleagues, and traveled on to Belgrade, Serbia, to rest and consult before returning to Canada. She had served with MCC in Palestine as peace coordinator for four years and was ending her term of service this summer.
Friesen’s deportation is similar treatment to what some foreign visitors have experienced, simply for acknowledging contact with Palestinians, and to what MCC’s Palestinian and Israeli partners face on a regular basis in their nonviolent work for justice. It also is a window into the reality of life for Palestinians under the illegal Israeli occupation, who experience ongoing discrimination or permanently emigrate from their ancestral homes.
MCC has worked in Palestine for more than 60 years and in Israel for more than 40 years. We are committed to continuing this work in the name of Christ with Palestinian and Israeli partners who long for peace for all in the region. Friesen’s deportation signals yet again the importance of working toward a just and peaceful resolution to the conflict.
MCC invites you to respond in a tangible way by communicating with your government representatives about routine violation of international law by Israel in its treatment of foreign travelers. The U.S. has refused to grant Israel membership in its visa waiver program because of Israel’s discrimination against foreigners, particularly of Arab or Muslim origin and those deemed politically suspect.
Ask your Members of Congress to urge Israel to allow free movement and access for all people, both Palestinians and U.S. citizens and others working for international human rights, development and peacebuilding organizations.