The Israeli government refused entrance to a group of 19 Americans of Jewish, Christian and Muslim faiths, July 2. The Interfaith Peace-Builders Delegation (IPBD), organized by the Fellowship of Reconciliation (FOR) and the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC) was scheduled to meet with peace, civil rights and elected officials in Israel and the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

The delegation arrived at Ben Gurion Airport, July 1, in Tel Aviv, where they were detained over night and sent out of the country.The Israeli government refused to give a reason.

In the Israeli daily newspaper, Ha’aretz, an Interior Ministry spokeswoman Tova Ellison told AP, “They wanted to show solidarity with the Palestinians,” she said. “The State of Israel is in a state of war at the moment and no other country would allow its enemies or those who support its enemies to enter.”

Scott Kennedy, former Chair of FOR National Council told the World, “Israeli forces either fundamentally misunderstand or intentionally misrepresented the Fellowship of Reconciliation’s interest. We side with all forces working for a political settlement and a two state solution. What is Israel doing that they think must be hidden from the eyes of international observers? Rather than preventing human rights observers from entering Israel and the Palestinian territories, Israel should stop those actions.”

Kennedy led the last FOR delegation which went into the region for two weeks in mid April. This is the second peace delegation denied entry into Israel and Palestine in the past month.

Ben Rempell, an FOR organizer told the World from their Washington, DC office, “US Council General Ed Mc Ewen [US State Department], came to the airport to unsuccessfully mediate a solution to allow the group to meet with the Ministry of Interior to raise their concerns. This is an important statement of where Israel is at right now.” Rempell continued,” We are going to Capital Hill tomorrow [July 3] to speak with representitves of the Foreign Affairs subcommittees of the House and Senate to demand a hearing on the pattern of treatment of US citizens.” U.S. visitors are usually given a 90-day tourist visa. At press time the delegation was in transit back to the United States

FOR is the largest and oldest interfaith nonviolence organization in the country. MPAC is a nonprofit public service agency that works with American organizations across the varied social and political spectrum in addressing issues involving civil and human rights, social justice, education, healthcare, labor and environmental justice, civic participation, and interfaith dialogue.

For information on new developments with the IPBD go to www.forusa.org or call (202) 244-0951

The author can be reached at jleblanc@pww.org

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