Alexa

Groups protest US student's denial into Israel

 Abeer Afana, a 21-year-old Wayne State University student is shown in Detroit, Thursday, May 27, 2010. Afana, of Palestinian descent, was detained Ma...
 Abeer Afana, a 21-year-old Wayne State University student is shown in Detroit, Thursday, May 27, 2010. Afana, of Palestinian descent, was detained Ma...

Arab American Barred

Abeer Afana, a 21-year-old Wayne State University student is shown in Detroit, Thursday, May 27, 2010. Afana, of Palestinian descent, was detained Ma...

Arab American Barred

Abeer Afana, a 21-year-old Wayne State University student is shown in Detroit, Thursday, May 27, 2010. Afana, of Palestinian descent, was detained Ma...

Arab-American and civil rights groups gathered Thursday to criticize Israel for barring a Michigan student of Palestinian descent from entering the country for a study-abroad program, saying she should have the right to study there.
Abeer Afana, a 21-year-old Wayne State University student, was detained and questioned for several hours May 16 at the Ben Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv as she tried to enter Israel on her U.S. passport. She was then returned to the United States.
The U.S.-born Afana, of the Detroit suburb of Novi, was part of a monthlong program designed to examine conflict and cooperation among Israelis and Palestinians. Seven other American students were admitted, including Jews and Arabs.
Afana said she was sent home because her parents were from the Gaza Strip and she had once held a Palestinian passport but it expired several years ago.
"Abeer has the right to continue her education abroad ... just like any other American," said Hasan Newash, director of the Palestine Cultural Office in Dearborn. He was standing with Afana, her family and several other Arab-American community and civil rights leaders on the steps of Detroit's U.S. courthouse.
In Tel Aviv, Israeli Interior Ministry spokeswoman Sabine Haddad told The Associated Press that Afana was told she had to enter Israel from Jordan, via the Allenby Crossing, because she is a Palestinian with a Palestinian identity number. She said it does not matter that the student was born in the U.S.
"Anyone with an active Palestinian identity number ... has to go through Allenby," Haddad said. "It was not a denial of entry in principle," she said, adding that the rule has been in effect for "many years."
The U.S. Department of State's consular affairs website warns travelers that Israel will "consider as Palestinian anyone who has a Palestinian identification number, was born in the West Bank or Gaza, or was born in the United States but has parents or grandparents who were born or lived in the West Bank or Gaza."
It says such Americans must travel to Israel using their Palestinian passports, regardless of their U.S. citizenship, and that they "may be barred from entering or exiting Israel, the West Bank or Gaza."
Afana told The Associated Press Thursday that neither her family nor the university anticipated problems because she is a U.S. citizen with a valid passport. Her family, which immigrated to the U.S. in the late 1980s, previously traveled to Gaza through Egypt.
"I didn't even know about Jordan until I got home," she said. "For me it was just like question after question about me, my family. ... No one gave me any alternatives. It was straight from interrogation to getting my bags."
Afana said a copy of her passport was sent to the Israeli military two days before her trip.
She said the two other Arab students also were interrogated but allowed through. One student is also of Palestinian descent but Afana believes her family came from the West Bank and she did not have a Palestinian passport.
She said the trip is "the opportunity of a lifetime to go and learn about the other side," and "see what I can do to promote peace and coexistence and tolerance."
Afana said her father paid for the trip, and that the university is working to get the money refunded.
Bob Thomas, Wayne State's dean of liberal arts and sciences, said the university is "meticulous" about ensuring that students are traveling on valid passports. Thomas said Afana, who studying biology and secondary education, is an ideal candidate for the program, which has students interacting with Israelis and Palestinians.
"We want to do things correctly. We are trying to do things in good faith," Thomas said.
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Associated Press writer Amy Teibel in Jerusalem contributed to this report.


Updated : 2020-12-03 13:01 GMT+08:00