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Academic delegation to Palestine endures 10-hour interrogation

Jan. 15, 2014 4:44 P.M. (Updated: Jan. 17, 2014 10:21 A.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Members of an academic delegation were held for 10 hours by Israeli security forces when crossing into Palestine from Jordan, a statement said Tuesday.

A delegation of six academics and a labor activist came to the West Bank to conduct meetings with Palestinian scholars "in order to better understand conditions on the ground and to facilitate future collaborations," one of the members said in a statement.

University of Illinois professor Junaid Rana said that on Sunday, four members of the delegation were held and interrogated by Israeli security forces, Interior Ministry employees, and the military for over 10 hours at the border.

"They were pressed about their scholarly research, academic networks, family backgrounds, nationalities, and ethnic origins," Rana said.

"The Israeli security officer demanded contact and cell phone information and two delegates were coerced into accessing their email accounts using Israeli security computers."

Additionally, the members were asked about previous travel to Arab countries.

"Rana was also asked why he attended a conference on 'Transnational American Studies' at the American University of Beirut in Lebanon, and whether he had any political writings related to Israel," the statement said.

It continued by condemning the interrogation: "Such actions are a clear violation of academic freedom, including the freedom to travel for scholarly research, and demonstrate tactics of intimidation and harassment of scholarly inquiry."

Some of the delegates who were held belong to US academic associations -- such as American Studies Association, Association of Asian American Studies, and Native American and Indigenous Studies Association -- that have endorsed an academic and cultural boycott of "Israeli institutions that are complicit in the continued colonization of Palestine."

Three of the delegates were also personal supporters of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement, the statement said.

"The delegation recognizes that their experiences on January 12, 2014, pales in comparison with the everyday surveillance and criminalization of Palestinian academics who are consistently denied the freedoms to research, publish, and travel," Rana added.

Palestinians, in addition to other Arabs, Muslims, and pro-Palestinian activists, are often held for hours -- and sometimes denied entry -- at border crossings controlled by Israel.

In December, the American Studies Association announced its decision to boycott of Israeli academic institutions.

A statement from the organization read at the time: "The ASA's endorsement of the academic boycott emerges from the context of US military and other support for Israel; Israel's violation of international law and UN resolutions; the documented impact of the Israeli occupation on Palestinian scholars and students; the extent to which Israeli institutions of higher education are a party to state policies that violate human rights; and finally, the support of such a resolution by a majority of ASA members."
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