250 people denied entry to Israel in 2018
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250 people denied entry to Israel in 2018

Israel’s Ben Gurion airport is Israel’s main airport. (Jorge Láscar/Flickr)

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israel’s security services have denied entry to approximately 250 people since the beginning of 2018.

According to The Times of Israel, which cited Israel’s public broadcaster Kan, the majority of those blocked by the Shin Bet were “Muslims, or were in the process of becoming Muslims,” although some were Christians. Many were suspected of involvement in terrorism or espionage, the report said.

More than 2 million tourists visited Israel in the first half of this year.

The report comes amid a series of high-profile incidents involving American Jews being detained and questioned at Ben Gurion Airport, the latest involving the prominent Iranian-American writer Reza Aslan earlier this week.

Aslan took to Twitter to describe an alleged attempt by security personnel to threaten and intimidate him upon landing in Israel. He tweeted that he was inspired to share his story after seeing the public outrage over a similar incident that occurred when Peter Beinart, a prominent liberal Zionist journalist and commentator, was interrogated at the Tel Aviv airport.

Describing what came next as reminiscent of “police states,” Aslan said that a female Shin Bet agent threatened him, asking him if he thought that “because you’re a public person I can’t do whatever I want with you?”

In a statement, the Shin Bet said that Azlan was a “foreign national who was born in Iran” who had engaged in behavior that had “raised suspicions.”

Deputy Attorney General Dina Zilber has asked the Shin Bet, Israel’s domestic intelligence service, to clarify the reasoning behind its actions, which have been a source of controversy both domestically and abroad. Her investigation follows a complaint by the Association for Civil Rights in Israel. Zilber plans on chairing a meeting on the issue in September.