Rights Activist Detained at Ben Gurion

YERUSHALAYIM (AP) -

Israeli authorities extensively interrogated a Jewish American activist leaving the country about her work with a non-profit organization, the group said Tuesday.

Israel has in the past detained and interrogated pro-Palestinian activists and known critics at its borders, but the Abraham Initiatives called this the first time an advocate of “shared society” between Arabs and Jews inside Israel had been targeted.

Initiatives activist Laura Mandel was flying home to San Francisco after attending a conference for the group when security officers at Israel’s Ben Gurion Airport pulled her aside for questioning about her involvement with the organization, which aims to advance the rights of Israel’s Arab citizens.

Mandel was, by her account, asked about her activities and contacts in Israel, as well as why an American Jew would be interested in Arab-Jewish relations. She said that after authorities questioned and inspected her for nearly two hours, they confiscated her laptop, medication and other personal belongings, to be returned at the end of the flight.

Israel’s Airport Authority said it was “sorry for having caused offense,” but that it was following security procedures mandated by law.

The Abraham Initiatives, which has headquarters in Lod, near Tel Aviv, New York City and London, claimed that the incident reflects a “deterioration in the state’s relations with its Arab citizens.”