Harvard Law student tangles with security, immigration officials

A foreign national arrives at the nation’s premier airport.  Security personnel, glancing through the hard drive on her laptop, find materials they deem disturbing. 

Show us your recent emails, they ask.  The traveler refuses.

Held for two days, she is returned home:  to America.

The nation where she had landed:  Israel.

From The Harvard Crimson:

Hebah M. Ismail ’06 had planned to work with Law School clinical instructor Ahmad Amara in Israel for eight days for a research project on Bedouin land rights, but Ismail was detained in Tel Aviv’s airport for two days and then deported. Now Amara is considering suing for compensation, he said.

Amara, who was not able to complete his research due to Ismail’s absence, said that he hopes to work with the Law School’s International Human Rights Clinic to help ensure that Law School students will not have trouble entering foreign countries in the future.

Tyler R. Giannini, the clinical director of the Law School’s Human Rights Program, wrote in an e-mailed statement that the clinic is “considering the most appropriate response in light of the circumstances and the best interests of Hebah [Ismail] and our future students.”

Amara hopes that HLS Dean Martha L. Minow will write a letter to the Israeli consulate to protest the “discrimination, humiliation, and mistreatment of [Ismail],” he said.

Link:  http://www.thecrimson.com/article/2010/2/3/ismail-amara-law-officials/

Personally, I find the narrative of this story troubling.

First, because I have absolutely no problem with the way that country’s security personnel handled her interview.  No cooperation, no entry.  Fine by me.

Second, because it is oh-so-politically correct for a Harvard Law student to spend a week researching Bedoin land questions in Israel.

But, we all know what would have happened to the Egyptian American woman had she spent the week researching murders of Coptic Christians this Christmas in the land of her ancestry.  

Or, had she chosen to investigate child slavery in Muslim Sudan.  Women’s rights in Saudi Arabia.  Election fraud in Iran.  Syrian influence in Lebanon.   Expulsion might have looked appealing compared with consequences in those nations.

This is not to suggest that there are no legal questions concerning land ownership amongst Israeli Bedouins.  Rather, it is to note the politcal cowardice of her research topic choice. 

And, finally, to hope that our own Homeland Security personnel would do such an effective job of screening visitors to this country.