American Peace Activist Detained in Israel

By Josh Richman

Published July 16, 2004, issue of July 16, 2004.
  • Print
  • Share Share

Israel’s refusal to let an American peace activist into the country is the product of a political double standard and a violation of her rights as a Diaspora Jew, supporters say.

Jamie Spector, 32, a social worker from San Francisco, was told upon arriving July 10 at Ben Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv that she was barred from entering the country because of her affiliation with the International Solidarity Movement, a pro-Palestinian group that opposes Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. She refused to leave, and has been held in detention by Israel ever since.

The ISM says it practices only nonviolent resistance. But Israeli officials maintain that the group has links to terrorists and have cracked down in recent months on ISM members and other activists coming to Israel to support the Palestinian cause. Spector — who has said she planned to be in Israel for three weeks to protest construction of the West Bank separation barrier, meet with other activists and do some sightseeing — now shares a cell with an ISM activist from New York who arrived two weeks earlier and a Dutch activist who arrived one day earlier. Unlike her cellmates, however, Spector is Jewish, a fact that her lawyer, Yael Berda, says makes Israel’s actions particularly objectionable. By blocking Spector’s entrance, the lawyer argued, Israel is violating the spirit of the Law of Return, which entitles Jews to immigrate to Israel.

In addition to her affiliation with the ISM, Spector is also a member of Jews for a Free Palestine, a group that has called upon Jews to renounce their right to immigrate under the Law of Return, arguing that the measure discriminates against Palestinian refugees.

Berda insisted that her client is the victim of a political double standard. “Hundreds of foreign citizens have entered Israel to help the settlers protest and physically resist the dismantling of the illegal settlements,” the attorney said. “None have been denied entry, that I know of.”

Israeli Interior Ministry spokeswoman Tova Ellinson did not respond to the Forward’s inquiry, but told the Associated Press that Israeli officials acted to block Spector’s entry in accordance with a security recommendation.

The Israeli Embassy in Washington referred questions about Spector to the consulate in San Francisco, where spokesman Jarad Bernstein said: “Israel is a democratic country based on law and order, and like other countries Israel retains its right to accept or deny entry into the country to foreign citizens based on certain regulations.

“Acting within these regulations, Israel has decided to deny entry to American citizen Jamie Spector. Israeli law affords her the right to appeal this decision, and she is currently in the process of doing so. Her case will be heard in Tel Aviv district court during the coming days.”

Berda has won an injunction preventing Spector’s forcible deportation pending judicial hearings on her demand to enter. “We are petitioning that Jamie is not a security threat,” Berda said. “She is perhaps a media hindrance to the Sharon government, although I’ve seen much more vocal activists than her.”

According to Berda, Spector never ran afoul of the law while visiting Israel in November 2002.

This time, Spector arrived just days after the International Court of Justice in The Hague ruled that major portions of the separation barrier violate international law; the Israeli government, claiming that Palestinian terrorism makes the wall necessary and justified, is moving ahead with construction.

“The government is trying to create an environment that whoever protests the wall is actually aiding terrorism,” Berda said.

“The problem is the de-legitimization of protest and voicing political opinion; the repression of demonstrations has grown terribly in the past months,” Berda said. “Last time she was here, she participated in an olive harvest with villagers in the Salfit district. She never had any confrontation with anyone, let alone soldiers.”

In a statement released through the ISM on her second day of detention, she said: “As a Jewish person of conscience, I see the illegal apartheid wall that is being built as a modern Warsaw Ghetto. As a Jewish person, it is my responsibility to do everything I can to oppose this wall, and the unjust occupation of Palestinians.”

Spector’s family said she was raised in a Sabbath-observant home and had belonged to a B’nai B’rith youth group. She and her sister both worked at the Seeds of Peace International Camp in Maine, where Israeli and Palestinian youths spend their summers together. Her parents, Annette and Stephen Spector, currently lead the Washington chapter of the Tikkun Community, the organization run by Rabbi Michael Lerner, though she is not a member.

Annette Spector, an education consultant from Falls Church, Va., said she is “angry” and “appalled” that Israel is branding her daughter “a bandit and a criminal and aiding terrorists, which is absolutely false.”

Stephen Spector, an attorney, said his daughter “is the kind of person who if Israel were looking to build bridges… they should be reaching out to.” He spoke proudly of his daughter’s four years of work in Bosnia, where her language and organizational skills made her a key consultant for the relief organization CARE International. Now she is a social worker at two public elementary schools in San Francisco’s Mission District.

The Spectors were concerned about their daughter’s safety until they were able to speak with her by phone for about 20 minutes on the day after her detention. “We’re just angry, furious at the Israeli government,” Annette Spector said. “We’re not concerned about Jamie physically — she’s a very strong woman, and we support her cause 100%.”






Find us on Facebook!
  • The sign reads: “Dogs are allowed in this establishment but Zionists are not under any circumstances.”
  • Is Twitter Israel's new worst enemy?
  • More than 50 former Israeli soldiers have refused to serve in the current ground operation in #Gaza.
  • "My wife and I are both half-Jewish. Both of us very much felt and feel American first and Jewish second. We are currently debating whether we should send our daughter to a Jewish pre-K and kindergarten program or to a public one. Pros? Give her a Jewish community and identity that she could build on throughout her life. Cons? Costs a lot of money; She will enter school with the idea that being Jewish makes her different somehow instead of something that you do after or in addition to regular school. Maybe a Shabbat sing-along would be enough?"
  • Undeterred by the conflict, 24 Jews participated in the first ever Jewish National Fund— JDate singles trip to Israel. Translation: Jews age 30 to 45 travelled to Israel to get it on in the sun, with a side of hummus.
  • "It pains and shocks me to say this, but here goes: My father was right all along. He always told me, as I spouted liberal talking points at the Shabbos table and challenged his hawkish views on Israel and the Palestinians to his unending chagrin, that I would one day change my tune." Have you had a similar experience?
  • "'What’s this, mommy?' she asked, while pulling at the purple sleeve to unwrap this mysterious little gift mom keeps hidden in the inside pocket of her bag. Oh boy, how do I answer?"
  • "I fear that we are witnessing the end of politics in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I see no possibility for resolution right now. I look into the future and see only a void." What do you think?
  • Not a gazillionaire? Take the "poor door."
  • "We will do what we must to protect our people. We have that right. We are not less deserving of life and quiet than anyone else. No more apologies."
  • "Woody Allen should have quit while he was ahead." Ezra Glinter's review of "Magic in the Moonlight": http://jd.fo/f4Q1Q
  • Jon Stewart responds to his critics: “Look, obviously there are many strong opinions on this. But just merely mentioning Israel or questioning in any way the effectiveness or humanity of Israel’s policies is not the same thing as being pro-Hamas.”
  • "My bat mitzvah party took place in our living room. There were only a few Jewish kids there, and only one from my Sunday school class. She sat in the corner, wearing the right clothes, asking her mom when they could go." The latest in our Promised Lands series — what state should we visit next?
  • Former Israeli National Security Advisor Yaakov Amidror: “A cease-fire will mean that anytime Hamas wants to fight it can. Occupation of Gaza will bring longer-term quiet, but the price will be very high.” What do you think?
  • Should couples sign a pre-pregnancy contract, outlining how caring for the infant will be equally divided between the two parties involved? Just think of it as a ketubah for expectant parents:
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.