Israel defends its right to bar S.F. Jewish activist

In 2002, San Francisco social worker Jamie Spector spent her summer in Salamiye, a Palestinian village in the West Bank, helping farmers protect their olive groves.

“We literally stand in front of the olive trees when Israelis try to cut them down,” Spector told the Falls Church News-Press, her original hometown newspaper, in November 2002. “I’m taking direct action; just trying to use my body in a useful way.”

Spector, a social worker with the San Francisco Unified School District, intended to do something similar this summer, as part of “Freedom Summer,” a campaign initiated by the International Solidarity Movement.

But Israeli authorities had other ideas. When the 32-year-old landed at Ben-Gurion airport on Saturday, July 10, she was deemed a security threat and taken into custody.

S.F. resident Brooke Atherton was deported several weeks ago, and several other ISM activists remain in Israeli custody, awaiting trial.

But Spector’s case is different, because she is Jewish.

Jarad Bernstein, press officer at the Consul General of Israel in San Francisco, said, “Like other countries, Israel retains its right to accept or deny entry into the country to foreign citizens based on certain regulations … Israel has decided to deny entry to American citizen Jamie Spector. Israeli law affords her the law to appeal this decision, and she is in the process of doing so. Her case will be heard in Tel Aviv District Court in the coming days.”

When asked whether this was the first time a Jew was being denied entry into Israel, Bernstein said he didn’t know, adding, “I’m not aware of previous instances.”

Annette Spector, Jamie’s mother, said she fully supports her daughter’s legal battle to enter the Jewish state.

“I am furious,” she said.

She spoke with her daughter on Sunday, July 11, and said, “She sounds very determined. She’s eager to proceed with her attorney and with the court injunction and wait out the decision. She wants to try to get in to Israel.”

The Israeli government considers the ISM to have links to terrorist groups, while the ISM calls itself a nonviolent resistance movement, similar to that of Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr.

Spector has relatives in Israel. She was a bat mitzvah, was confirmed, and was active in B’nai Brith youth. In the Bay Area, she has been most active with Jews for a Free Palestine.

In a statement circulated by the ISM on Monday, July 12, Jamie Spector said: “As a Jewish person of conscience, I see the illegal apartheid wall that is being built as a modern Warsaw Ghetto … It is my responsibility to do everything I can to oppose this wall, and the unjust occupation of Palestinians.”

Alix Wall
Alix Wall

Alix Wall is a contributing editor to J. She is also the founder of the Illuminoshi: The Not-So-Secret Society of Bay Area Jewish Food Professionals and is writer/producer of a documentary-in-progress called "The Lonely Child."