MK Nahman Shai (Zionist Union) slammed the Israel Security Agency (Shin Bet), accusing it of carrying out political questioning, in a letter to the head of the organization Nadav Argaman on Monday.
Shai’s letter comes following multiple reported instances of the Shin Bet detaining and questioning journalists, human rights activists and Palestinian sympathizers.
“Recently, there have been many complaints about interrogations carried out by Shin Bet agents at Israel’s border crossings,” Shai wrote. “Clearly, there has been a change in policy when it comes to entering the country, and the questions asked in such interrogations carry a political tinge, and they are insulting and offensive.
“These interrogations inflict damage on the relations between the Jews and Arabs in Israel, as well as harm both Israel’s international standing and its most basic values. Action must be taken immediately in order to investigate the content of these interrogations and the methods employed by the interrogators,” he added.
The issue came to the fore recently after Jewish-American journalist, author and academic Peter Beinart was detained and questioned at Ben Gurion Airport when he arrived in the country for his niece’s bat mitzvah earlier this month.
Beinart, who in the past has advocated for a boycott of Jewish settlements in Judea and Samaria, published a blog post in the American Jewish website The Forward in which he said he had been taken aside for questioning and asked whether he had ever participated in any demonstrations in Israel.
Shortly after Beinart tweeted about his experience, the Shin Bet said he had been detained due to “the mistaken considerations of personnel on the ground. We apologize for the inconvenience suffered by Mr. Beinart. The head of the Shin Bet has ordered an inquiry into the incident.”
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said at the time via a statement from the Prime Minister’s Office that he had spoken with the agency was told the incident was due to an administrative error. “Israel is an open society which welcomes all – critics and supporters alike. Israel is the only country in the Middle East where people voice their opinions freely and robustly,” Netanyahu said.
Beinart’s account coaxed Iranian-American author Reza Aslan to share his own account of being detained while crossing into Israel from Jordan with his family. Aslan said he was separated from his family and then asked why he hates Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, emphasising that he was threatened he would not see his children “for a very long time.
Shin Bet denied any wrongdoing on their part, as well as any accusations of political motivation.
“Mr Aslan, an Iranian born foreign citizen, was questioned by the Shin Bet at the Jordanian border crossing after his behavior raised suspicions,” read Shin Bet’s statement, which continued, “After a short interrogation, Mr. Aslan was released.”
“The claims of threats being leveled at Mr. Aslan during the interrogation, as well as the claims about any political questions, were looked into thoroughly, and were found to be lacking any basis in reality. Shin Bet’s activity at the border crossing over the past year, has lead to the thwarting of terror plots by foreigners within Israel,” the statement continued, adding that “the activities of the Shin Bet are carried out in accordance with the law and in order to fulfill the organization’s objective of maintaining the security of the state.”
Written by Yona Schnitzer/TPS | Photo by Hillel Maeir/TPS