J Street is outraged by the news that American Jewish activists Simone Zimmerman and Abby Kirschbaum were detained for several hours and extensively questioned by Israeli border agents on Sunday. This disturbing incident is part of the Netanyahu government’s ongoing campaign to demonize and intimidate critics of their policies and of the occupation — with disastrous ramifications for Israeli democracy.
This follows a series of incidents in which activists have been detained and questioned on the basis of their political views, opposition to the occupation and support for Palestinian rights. It’s no surprise that Zimmerman was reportedly asked her opinion of the prime minister. Israeli officials appear to be creating a litmus test in which only those who support the agenda of the current right-wing government can expect to enter and exit the country without facing harassment.
As a former national student president of J Street U, a co-founder of IfNotNow and an activist based in Israel, Zimmerman has shown herself to be a dedicated and passionate supporter of a better, peaceful future for Israelis and Palestinians — and exemplifies the future of American Jewish leadership. By treating her and her fellow activist in this fashion, the Israeli government is shamefully signaling its contempt for the beliefs of progressive American Jews and for the norms of liberal democracy. As with the recently passed nation-state law, they are alienating supporters of Israel around the world.
For the American Jewish community, it is imperative to speak out about the dangerous actions of the Netanyahu government — and to do everything we can to help defend and preserve Israeli democracy.