Harvard freshman denied entry at Logan Airport by immigration officials

Posts by friends on social media were critical of the United States

Deirdre Fernandes, Boston Globe, August 27, 2019

A 17-year-old Palestinian student en route to Harvard University to begin his freshman year was denied entry to the United States at Logan Airport last weekend, heightening fears that the Trump administration’s restrictive immigration policy is making it harder for international students to come to study.

The student, Ismail Ajjawi, lives in Lebanon and had a valid visa to study in the United States, but upon his arrival at Logan he was questioned by immigration officials and then sent on a flight back home, according to officials with Amideast, an international education nonprofit that administers the Hope Fund scholarship
the student received to help him attend Harvard.

Ajjawi was reportedly denied entry over political posts his friends made on social media that were critical of the United States.

The case has drawn anger and concern about the increased scrutiny facing the thousands of international students who flood US campuses, particularly those in the Boston area, every fall.

“It’s so counterproductive to American interests to close the doors to kids like this,” said Geraldine Brooks, the novelist, who was involved with the Hope Fund in its earliest days, nearly 20 years ago.

The more than a dozen freshmen who have come through the Hope Fund annually have studied through the shelling of their neighborhoods and had their schooling disrupted for long stretches, but they see a US degree as a path forward. One went to work for NASA, others have become engineers and educators, and one is a Rhodes Scholar, Brooks said.

“This is an indicator of a serious and dark problem happening unseen in back rooms of our airports,” Brooks said. Ajjawi is fortunate to be going to Harvard, an institution that has the resources and network to help him try and resolve the problem, she said.

“I’m completely outraged and so concerned about the kids who aren’t trying to get to clout-rich institutions,” Brooks said.

PEN America, a nonprofit that advocates for free expression issues, called the decision to send Ajjawi back “perverse.”

“The idea that Ajjawi should be prevented from taking his place at Harvard because of his own political speech would be alarming; that he should be denied this opportunity based on the speech of others is downright lawless,” Summer Lopez, senior director of the organization, said in a statement.

Officials with the Department of Homeland Security declined to comment on the specifics of the case, but said the student was deemed inadmissible and his visa was canceled.

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Barbara Olson and Tsela Barr: Congress needs to stand against Israeli travel bans


In this July 15, 2019, file photo, U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn, right, speaks, as U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., listens, during a news conference at the Capitol in Washington. (J. Scott Applewhite)

TSELA BARR AND BARB OLSON, The Cap Times, August 23, 2019

Last week, the Israeli government took the unprecedented step of denying two sitting members of the U.S. Congress, Reps. Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib, entry to Israel.

Their crime was to set up their own independent fact-finding trip to visit Palestine rather than participate in the scripted, AIPAC-sponsored free trip to Israel that most Congress members participate in.

They couldn’t be allowed to meet with Israeli or Palestinian peace activists, or visit places like heavily occupied Hebron that aren’t on the itinerary of the AIPAC junket.

Tlaib and Omar had to be kept out because they had the gall to criticize Israel and express support for the non-violent South Africa-inspired Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement seeking justice and human rights for Palestinians.

This may be outrageous, but it is hardly surprising. Israel has been denying entry to Palestinians since they began expelling them in 1948. The discrimination and harassment experienced by Palestinian, Arab and/or Muslim travelers seeking to enter Israel, or just pass through it to visit the illegally occupied Palestinian territories, is well-known. Recently they have also kept out Jewish Americans who support BDS and champion Palestinian human rights.

Earlier this year, the Trump administration revoked the visa of Fatou Bensouda, the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court; denied a visa to Palestinian diplomat Hanan Ashrawi; and prevented Palestinian civil society activist Omar Barghouti from traveling to the U.S. for his daughter’s wedding.

It is also not surprising that Trump, no friend of human rights anywhere, seeks to score political points with his base by continuing his racist and Islamophobic attacks on Omar and Tlaib, as well as fellow Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ayanna Presley.

But alarm bells should ring out when a U.S. president openly collaborates with the government of a foreign country to which Congress generously provides some $5 billion per year in U.S. tax money in order to stop members of that same Congress from seeing the reality on the ground there.

Many members of Congress are speaking out against the Trump/Netanyahu action. One of these is our own Rep. Mark Pocan, who tweeted “Prime Minister Netanyahu is wrong to deny @RepRashida & @Ilhan entry into Israel. The U.S. is Israel’s strongest ally & has provided billions in support. PM Netanyahu must reverse this decision & no member of Congress should visit Israel until all members of Congress are welcome. “

One who has yet to speak out is Sen. Tammy Baldwin. Baldwin is a co-sponsor of Senate Resolution 120 that slanders the BDS movement, implies that it is anti-Semitic, and condemns this legally protected exercise of First Amendment rights.

Even Sen. Ron Johnson has yet to co-sponsor this bill.

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What Is Israel Trying to Hide?

Reps. Tlaib & Omar Blocked from Taking Official Trip to West Bank


Democracy Now!  August 16, 2019

    GUESTS
    Mustafa Barghouti
    member of the Palestinian Parliament, secretary general of the Palestinian National Initiative, a political party. He was a presidential candidate in the 2005 elections.
    Rebecca Vilkomerson
    executive director of Jewish Voice for Peace.

Israel sparked outrage Thursday when it banned two freshman Democratic congresswomen of color — Reps. Rashida Tlaib of Michigan and Ilhan Omar of Minnesota — from entering the country. Following outcry from Democratic leaders and Palestinians, Israel granted permission for Tlaib to enter the country on “humanitarian” grounds to visit her family in the West Bank — though Tlaib said Friday she will not visit her family under such conditions. Israel originally denied entrance to Tlaib and Omar after President Donald Trump tweeted, “It would show great weakness if Israel allowed Rep. Omar and Rep.Tlaib to visit. They hate Israel & all Jewish people.” Congressmembers Tlaib and Omar are the first two Muslim women elected to Congress, and were planning to tour East Jerusalem and the occupied West Bank. Both congresswomen have voiced support for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions, or BDS, movement, a global solidarity campaign with the Palestinian people. The nonviolent movement seeks to use economic and cultural pressure to force Israel to end its occupation of Palestinian lands. We speak with Mustafa Barghouti, a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council and secretary general of the Palestinian National Initiative political party, and Rebecca Vilkomerson, executive director of Jewish Voice for Peace.

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: Israel has announced it will conditionally allow Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib to visit family in the West Bank, a day after it barred both Tlaib and fellow Congresswoman Ilhan Omar from entering Israel to travel to occupied Palestine. Israel is still refusing entry to Omar. Israel initially blocked entry to both lawmakers after President Trump took the unprecedented step of publicly urging Israel to bar entry to the women, the first two female Muslim members of Congress. Trump tweeted Thursday, “It would show great weakness if Israel allowed Rep. Omar and Rep.Tlaib to visit. They hate Israel & all Jewish people,” he tweeted.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu defended his decision Thursday. Israeli prime minister defended the decision to bar both the U.S. lawmakers.

PRIME MINISTER BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: [translated] By law, we are not willing to admit anyone into Israel who calls for the boycott of the state of Israel and acts to delegitimize the state of the Jews.

AMY GOODMAN: Israeli authorities say Congressmember Tlaib will now be allowed entry on “humanitarian” grounds to visit her ailing 90-year-old grandmother, on the condition she does not promote the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement during her visit. Both Congresswomen Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar have voiced support for the BDS movement, the global solidarity campaign with the Palestinian people. The nonviolent movement seeks to use economic and cultural pressure to force Israel to end its occupation of Palestinian lands. The congresswomen were planning to tour East Jerusalem and the occupied West Bank.

After learning of the ban, Congressmember Ilhan Omar released a statement that read, in part, quote, “It is an affront that Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, under pressure from President Trump, would deny entry to representatives of the U.S. government. Trump’s Muslim ban is what Israel is implementing, this time against two duly elected Members of Congress,” she said.

Both centrist and progressive Democrats criticized Israel’s move and Trump’s statements. U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi urged Israel to reconsider its decision. Meanwhile, Congressmember Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez tweeted, “I cannot move forward with scheduling any visits to Israel until all members of Congress are allowed.” Despite outcry from Democratic leaders, as well as Palestinians, President Trump doubled down on his position later on Thursday.

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Meet Rashida Tlaib’s grandma: ‘Who wouldn’t be proud of a granddaughter like that?’

Rep. Tlaib’s grandmother says the family had already prepared a lamb

Muftiyah Tlaib, the grandmother of Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), spoke to The Washington Post on Aug. 16 from her home in the West Bank. (Video: James McAuley/Photo: James McAuley/The Washington Post)

James McAuley and Sufian Taha, The Washington Post, August 16, 2019

BEIT UR AL-FAUQA, WEST BANK — Rashida Tlaib’s grandmother does not understand why her granddaughter, a sitting U.S. congresswoman, could not visit her as originally planned.

Muftiyah Tlaib — who says she is somewhere between 85 and her early 90s — lives in the village of Beit Ur al-Fauqa, about 15 miles outside Jerusalem and close to the seam line between Israel and the West Bank, territory that Israel occupied in the 1967 war and that Palestinians hope to see as part of an independent state someday.

She lives in the same elegant limestone house in the same sleepy village she has called home since 1974 — the house where the whole village once came to celebrate Rashida Tlaib’s wedding, and the house that looks directly onto an Israeli settlement with a visible military presence.

“She’s in a big position, and she cannot visit her grandmother,” she laughed, seated in her living room on Friday. “So what good is the position?”

In the end, Muftiyah Tlaib will not see her granddaughter in the coming week. The reunion would have marked the first meeting for the two since about 2007, she said.

Rep. Tlaib says she will not go to Israel after the country initially rejected her request for a visit, then reversed course

On Friday, Israel partly reversed its decision from the day before to deny entry to Tlaib (D-Mich.) and fellow congresswoman Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) from a planned tour of the Palestinian territories, on the grounds that “the sole purpose of their visit is to harm Israel and increase incitement against it.”

Israeli Interior Minister Aryeh Deri said Friday that he would approve a separate humanitarian request for Tlaib to visit her grandmother, or “sity” in Arabic.

“This could be my last opportunity to see her,” Tlaib wrote in a letter to Israeli authorities. “I will respect any restrictions and will not promote boycotts against Israel during my visit.”

For many Palestinians, the fact that Tlaib accepted these terms was itself an affront, a humiliating compromise in which she was made to forgo her opinions to see her loved ones.

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Israel Denies Entry to Omar and Tlaib After Trump’s Call to Block Them


Isabel Kershner, Sheryl Gay Stolberg and Peter Baker, New York Times, Aug. 15, 2019

JERUSALEM — Under intense pressure from President Trump, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government on Thursday barred two members of the United States Congress from entering Israel, reversing a previous decision to admit two of the president’s most outspoken critics.

By enlisting a foreign power to take action against two American citizens, let alone elected members of Congress, Mr. Trump crossed a line that other presidents have not, in effect exporting his partisan battles beyond the country’s borders. And he demonstrated the lengths that he will go to to target his domestic opponents, in this case two of the congresswomen of color he has sought to make the face of the Democratic Party heading into his re-election campaign.

In blocking the visits of the two Democratic congresswomen, who are both Muslim, Mr. Netanhyahu cited their support for boycotting Israel, acceding to the wishes of the American president, who declared on Twitter shortly before Israel’s announcement that letting them in would “show great weakness.”

[Is B.D.S. anti-Semitic? A closer look at the boycott Israel campaign.]

The move not only inflamed the politics of both countries, it joined Mr. Trump and Mr. Netanyahu even more closely as partners against their mutual adversaries as the prime minister faces a critical election next month.

Speaking with reporters before flying to Manchester, N.H., for a rally, Mr. Trump would not say whether he spoke directly with Mr. Netanyahu about the matter but acknowledged that he “did speak with people” privately even before tweeting about it.

The congresswomen, Representatives Rashida Tlaib of Michigan and Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, are vocal supporters of the Palestinians and the movement called Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions, or B.D.S.

The president has repeatedly attacked them, along with Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York and Ayanna S. Pressley of Massachusetts, at one point demanding that they “go back” to their home countries, even though they are all American citizens.

Israel’s decision was criticized not only by Democrats but also by some top Republicans, including Senator Marco Rubio of Florida. The American Israel Public Affairs Committee, a pro-Israel lobbying group, also said it was a mistake.

In a statement, Mr. Netanyahu said Israel respects Congress but defended the decision. “As a free and vibrant democracy,” he said, “Israel is open to critics and criticism, with one exception: Israeli law prohibits the entry into Israel of those who call for, and work to impose, boycotts on Israel, as do other democracies that prevent the entry of people believed to be damaging to the country.”

Mr. Trump, who has sought to elevate a handful of controversial but relatively powerless liberal freshmen of color into symbols of the opposition, promptly welcomed the decision on Twitter. “Representatives Omar and Tlaib are the face of the Democrat Party, and they HATE Israel!” he wrote. Continue reading

Fordham University Students Win Landmark Fight to Establish Palestine Club

Judge Orders University to Recognize Students for Justice in Palestine Club


Students for Justice in Palestine at Fordham University

Center for Constitutional Rights, August 6, 2019

New York— Five Fordham University students have won a landmark legal victory against Fordham University, which sought to prohibit them from forming a Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) club at their university. The students, represented by the Center for Constitutional Rights, Palestine Legal, and cooperating counsel Alan Levine, argued that Fordham University violated its own rules when, in 2016, it vetoed the United Student Government’s approval of SJP, preventing the students from forming the SJP club. 

The court annulled Fordham’s decision to deny SJP club status, finding it arbitrary and capricious, as nothing in Fordham’s rules permitted it to “reject an application of a student club because it criticized the policies of only one nation.” In her ruling, Justice Nancy Bannon stated that “it must be concluded that [Fordham University’s] disapproval of SJP was made in large part because the subject of SJP’s criticism is the State of Israel, rather than some other nation, in spite of the fact that SJP advocates only legal, nonviolent tactics aimed at changing Israel’s policies.” 

Justice Bannon noted that “the consideration and discussion of differing views is actually part of Fordham’s mission, regardless of whether that consideration and discussion might discomfit some and polarize others.”  

Awad, et al. v. Fordham University is the first lawsuit in the country challenging institutional censorship of students advocating for justice in Palestine, and this win marks the first major legal victory for free speech for advocates of Palestine on college campuses.

“The administration unfairly hindered my and my fellow classmates’ abilities to advocate for the human rights of Palestinians,” said Ahmad Awad, who graduated from Fordham University in 2017. “Although over 1,000 days have passed since we initiated the process for club status, I did not give up on my fight for human rights and free speech. I continued to advocate for justice in Palestine, and now because of Justice Bannon’s order, no Fordham student will be restricted or prohibited from advocating for justice in Palestine.”

Said Veer Shetty, whose attorneys argued on his behalf in February to add him to the complaint since the last remaining original petitioner graduated in May, “I am beyond happy that Justice Bannon chose to uphold the supposed values of our university and academic freedom. A huge thank you goes to everyone who worked on our behalf. Fordham’s Students for Justice in Palestine would not exist today without all of their tireless efforts. We, as a new club, will be equally tireless in our efforts to fight for the rights and dignity of the Palestinian people.”

Said Sapphira Lurie, who graduated from Fordham University in 2017, “When universities promise they are ‘committed to research and education that assist in the alleviation of poverty, the promotion of justice, the protection of human rights and respect for the environment,’ as Fordham defines its university’s characteristics, they must allow students to pursue this education. Rather than allow Fordham’s administration to impose its backwards and imperialist politics on us, we were victorious in the fight for students’ rights to organize for justice for Palestine. This victory shows that when we fight back, we can win. Free Palestine!”

The lawsuit, filed in April 2017, argued that Fordham’s veto of the student government’s approval of SJP was arbitrary and capricious, violating its own policies. In November 2017, the students filed a motion for a preliminary injunction asking the court to direct the university to recognize SJP urgently, as some of the students had graduated and others would soon graduate. Last night, Justice Bannon granted the students’ petition and unambiguously ordered Fordham University to “recognize Students for Justice in Palestine at Fordham University as a university-sanctioned club…”

“We are thrilled that students at Fordham will finally be able to form a Students for Justice in Palestine club,” said Center for Constitutional Rights Deputy Legal Director Maria LaHood. “The students’ support for Palestinian rights and their demand to freely express that support truly exemplify Fordham’s stated values, unlike the Administration’s shameful actions here.” 

Said Levine, “Fordham’s decision to deny recognition to Students for Justice in Palestine was so utterly arbitrary and irrational that it can only be understood in the context of the nationwide effort to silence those voices seeking justice for Palestinians. In succumbing to those forces, Fordham abandoned its obligation to foster critical points of view on matters of public concern. Justice Bannon’s principled decision reasserts the judiciary’s role to ensure that voices of marginalized communities will be heard. Nothing could be more important at this moment.”

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