West Bank, ALRAY -- The Palestinian-American writer Susan Abulhawa was detained at Ben Gurion airport this morning as she entered Israel en route to a literary festival in Palestine. Israeli authorities sought to deport her on the grounds that she did not have a visa. She has appealed the deportation and is in a detention center, according to a friend who has spoken with Abulhawa’s lawyer.
Abulhawa, 48, is scheduled to appear at the Palestinian Literature Festival, November 3-7. She is a guest of the British Council, a sponsor of the festival. The Council has stood by her throughout the deportation attempt, says her friend Linda Hanna. The Kenyon Institute, a British research group, is also representing Abulhawa.
Abulhawa is a supporter of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign (BDS). Israel has said that it will prevent supporters of BDS from entering the country. Hanna says that Abulhawa was not asked political questions when she was detained. Rather, Israeli authorities noted that she had been deported from Israel three years ago and said she therefore should have obtained a visa before attempting to enter the country again. Abulhawa was not aware of such a rule, Hanna said.
The author of a widely-hailed novel, “Mornings in Jenin,” Abulhawa was advised by the American Embassy to appeal the order when Israeli authorities sought to put her on a plane out of the country this morning, shortly after arriving from JFK at 10:30 AM.
Based in Philadelphia, Abulhawa is from a family that has lived in Jerusalem for centuries.
She is set to appear before a judge some time tonight, Hanna said. The judge has asked her attorney whether her participation was “essential” to the festival. Hanna said the judge was told that the festival is “dependent in great part on her being there.”
Her detention follows the deportation of activists who support the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign (BDS). Last summer Israel deported Ariel Gold of CodePink and Katherine Franke, a Columbia law professor and member of Jewish Voice for Peace. Abulhawa’s detention also comes on the heels of the 16-day detention of a Palestinian-American student Lara Alqasem, last month, even though she had a visa to study at Hebrew University, because she had supported BDS in the past. Alqasem was ultimately allowed to enter. And over the summer two leading liberal Zionists were stopped and questioned about their political views at Ben Gurion, Meyer Koplow and Peter Beinart, Koplow on his way out, Beinart on his way in.