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.

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