Bhatti and Fountain: Our friend, detained

As Itamar Mann noted in the News earlier this week (“Danger in detention,” Jan. 19), Jared Malsin arrived at Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv with his girlfriend, Faith Rowold, on Jan. 12. He spent the next eight days there. Though the two were merely arriving home from vacation in the Czech Republic, Jared and Faith were detained by the Israeli authorities shortly after their arrival. After eight hours of interrogation, they were denied entry into Israel. Apparently, Jared was deemed a security threat.

Jared graduated from Yale in 2007 and is one of our friends. He lived in Berkeley College and majored in Political Science. Outside the classroom, he wrote for the Yale Daily News and the Yale Hippolytic. He served on the Dwight Hall Board and was a coordinator for the Social Justice Network. He coordinated get-out-the-vote efforts with Students for a New American Politics, organized with the Yale Coalition for Peace and won expanded financial aid for students through the Undergraduate Organizing Committee. Jared is a committed activist and journalist — but a security threat?

And then there is Faith. She graduated from Washington University in St. Louis in 2004. The daughter of a Lutheran pastor, she has spent the last two years working with Christians at the Lutheran Church in Jerusalem. There is no evidence that she poses any danger to the State of Israel.

Transcripts from the interrogation show that Jared was deemed a threat because he had written news stories “criticizing the State of Israel” and because he “authored articles inside the territories.” Jared is the Chief English Editor for the Bethlehem-based Ma’an News Agency, one of the few news sources from the Occupied Territories that is not aligned with any political faction. The New York Times considers it a reliable source of independent news. Detaining a journalist because of where he reports from or the events he reports on is an affront to freedom of the press and must not be tolerated.

While Faith was deported two days later, Jared was able to appeal his deportation. However, his hearing was delayed repeatedly. He ended up spending eight days in a small, windowless room at Ben Gurion Airport with minimal access to the outside world including his parents. Yesterday, — the ninth day — he was deported. He never attended a hearing.

We are deeply concerned about Jared because he is our friend, but what happened to him and to Faith is hardly unique. As Mann noted Monday, Jared is actually one of the lucky ones. He has an American passport and a degree from a prestigious university. Yet despite these privileges, he spent over a week locked in a tiny cell. Faith cannot go back to her home or work in Jerusalem. If this is happening to Jared and Faith, then imagine how much worse the situation must be for Palestinian civilians and international aid workers in the Occupied Territories.

It is time for Israel to stop its attacks on the press. Censorship has no place in a democracy, and the U.S. is one of the few voices the country will listen to. We need to get our officials on board. If not, Jared and Faith will be unable to return to their country and continue their important work.

Saqib Bhatti and Megan Fountain are, respectively, 2004 and 2007 graduates of Yale College.

Comments

  • y11

    “Degree from a prestigious university.” Which, exactly, are you talking about? Because with articles like this coming from graduates of ours, it sure ain’t Yale.

  • Thisistrash

    The most basic research would reveal that poor Jared lied about his reasons for wanting to enter Israel and repeatedly overstayed his visa on past visits. Enough with the trash, YDN.

  • Alum

    If a journalist sympathetic to Israel were caught inside the Palestinian territories, he might meet a worse fate than being detained for a week – he might end up like Daniel Pearl. Where is the Islamists’ sense of freedom of the press?

  • Yale Dad

    Excellent article, and well said.

  • honestly

    What the heck, editors!? Get your act together!

  • yeahright

    How were they “arriving home from vacation”? Are they Israeli citizens? Does Israel not have the right to decide who to allow in as a visitor to her country? You may disagree with their decision, but that doesn’t mean it rises to the level of human rights violation, or freedom of press violation, or grievous injustice, or even very sad event. Get over yourselves.

  • PC ’07

    Thank you for reporting on this. Jared was treated atrociously. He never lied about why he was in Bethlehem. His occupation was obvious and honorable: he was a journalist. The Israeli security system is too paranoid and authoritarian to serve its function.

  • @Alum

    This article isn’t about what Islamists would or wouldn’t do to an Israeli journalist. This is about what Israel did to somebody they apparently didn’t agree with. I don’t see why you had to change the subject. There is a tendency in this country to just knee-jerk support everything Israel does. There’s more debate IN Israel about its treatment of Arab citizens, its treatment of Palestinians, the building of settlements, etc. than there is in this country. Hell, we question our own country more than we question Israel. We’ve made it a black and white issue. Israel = good, Palestinians = evil. The reality is much much much more complex than that.

  • Eoin

    What is overlooked in this debate is the fact that Jared and Faith were living and working in Bethlehem. Bethlehem is not and never has been part of Israel, it is Occupied Palestinian Territory. If there was real justice, it would be the Palestinian Authority that would choose whether or not to allow them in. It should not be for Israel to decide who to allow into another land

  • mika

    Definitely it is much much more complicated then black/white. The biggest problem is, that Jared lied, which is also the most unreasonable part of the story. Why did he lie? It was not a first visit and he must have known that lying to the authorities would lead to bad conclusion…. I have many friends that work in palestinian territories and are also journalists, the difference is, that when they come to the security check or boarder control, they reveal whatever is needed/asked and they never were detained…. If you lie, you loose the possibility to be trusted on all the issues you talk about, right? By the way, the treatment of Israeli arabs and palestinians is the same as the treatment of all the other citizens, everybody is bothered by the hard security measures there all the time….