Israeli questioning of US Jews at border exposes deeper rift

Religion News Service | 8/19/2018 | Staff
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JERUSALEM (AP) — When Simone Zimmerman arrived at the check-in window at the Israeli border with Egypt, it didn’t take long for the young activist to run into trouble.

Zimmerman, a Jewish American living in Israel, quickly became a person of interest after telling the border agent that she worked for an Israeli advocacy group that assists Palestinians. She says that led to a series of “super-charged” questions about her professional activities and political views.

Agent - Palestinians - Jews - Names - Contacts

The agent wanted to know why she worked with Palestinians, not Jews, and asked for the names of Palestinian contacts in the West Bank. Agents unlocked her phone, asked her opinion of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and threatened to deport her if she lied. After four hours, Zimmerman, who had taken a brief vacation in Egypt, was allowed to return to Israel.

A series of similar incidents at Israeli border crossings has highlighted a growing gulf between the country’s hard-line government and liberal Jewish Americans who say they support Israel but oppose its policies on issues including religion, President Donald Trump and especially the continued occupation of the West Bank.

Shift - Implications - Close - Relationship - Support

This shift already appears to be having important implications for what historically has been a close relationship built on almost unquestioning bipartisan support. Some Jewish leaders have begun to criticize Israeli policies publicly, and some predict that the Democratic Party — home to an estimated 70 percent of American Jews — could soon turn away from its support for Israel.

A poll published by the American Jewish Committee in June showed deep differences between U.S. and Israeli Jews on issues like Israeli settlements, religious pluralism and Trump’s policies. Only 34 percent of American Jews, for instance, supported Trump’s handling of relations with Israel, compared with 77 percent of Israeli Jews.

Poll - Pew - Research - Center

A separate poll conducted by the Pew Research Center early this...
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