Posted by on June 07, 2012 in Blog

A couple of days ago, I wrote about the frequent coercion of Arab Americans attempting to enter Israel or the Occupied Palestinian Territories to open up their emails so Israeli border security can go through their messages and chats. I also noted that the refusal of one Palestinian American woman, Sandra Tamari, to grant Israeli authorities access to her Gmail account resulted in her expulsion. While the point of my blog was lament how little the State Department was doing to protect its citizens’ right to travel without facing discrimination and harassment, the transcript of her conversation with Chris Kane from the State department (as recalled by Tamari) reveals an even more troublesome picture:

CK:  Hello.  I got your number from _____.  You are being questioned by the Israeli authorities, I understand.  

ST:  They are threatening to deny me entry and to deport me.

CK:  Are you Jewish?

ST: No

CK:  Have you been in contact with the Israeli government or military in the past?

ST:  No

CK:  Have you been here before?

ST:  Yes, several times. I am a Palestinian with family in the West Bank.

CK:  Oh, you have family in the West Bank.  Then there is nothing I can do to help you.  In fact, if I interceded on your behalf, it will hurt your case with the Israelis.

ST:  I don't understand.  You are saying you can't speak with them.  You have no influence.  They are demanding to access my gmail account.

CK:  If they have your gmail address, they can get in without your password.

ST:  What do you mean?  How?

CK:  They're good!

ST:  This is crazy.  You mean you know about these requests to access emails and you have no problem with it.

CK:  It is in our travel warning.  They won't harm you.  You will be sent home on the next flight out. I hope I have been of good service to you.

ST:  Frankly, you have done nothing for me.

CK:  Well at least you can say I did it kindly.

Several questions: Israel’s discrimination aside for a moment, does the religious identification of a U.S. citizen determine whether the U.S. State Department will advocate for its citizens abroad? Why would the State Department’s involvement hinder an American citizen’s efforts to visit her family abroad? Tamari’s recollection of that conversation certainly demands a better response from the State Department than has thus far been offered.


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