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Banned from the US for ‘association with a terrorist organization’

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In early March, 2020, when international travel was still unambiguously possible, I was due to visit the United States. I had been invited to speak at the annual AIPAC policy conference. In addition, a number of other meetings were in the initial process of being scheduled. These included a talk at a base of the US Army Special Forces, and another engagement in New York.

I had a number of logistical issues to sort out in making preparations for the trip. One of these was that I had received a phone call one Friday morning a couple of months earlier from someone speaking accentless Hebrew but claiming to be from the US Embassy in Jerusalem. This individual briskly informed me that my existing, ten-year visa to the US had been cancelled. I inquired as to the reasons for the cancellation. He informed me that the embassy was not required to provide an explanation for decisions of this type. There our conversation ended.

I assumed some bureaucratic hiccup. I had been travelling regularly to the US since 2004, without experiencing any problems. Indeed, I was fond of telling friends about some of my experiences entering the country. These seemed to me to epitomize the positive and unique side of a country of which I had grown very fond. On one occasion, an Italian-American passport control officer, seeing my Israeli passport, asked if I had taken part in the 2006 war in Lebanon. I replied that I indeed had. He responded that he had been stationed with US forces in Iraq at that time. We looked at each other for a moment and he nodded slowly and said ‘welcome to the USA.’ Another time, a Korean American officer began speaking to me slowly in Hebrew after I handed him my passport. Astonished, I asked him where this knowledge came from. ‘Our pastor encourages us to learn some Hebrew before visiting Israel,’ he replied.

I have never had such experiences entering any other country. These anecdotes seemed and seem to me to get at the heart of the particular relationship between the USA and Israel, the country of my residence and citizenship.

So I expected that a renewed visa application would rapidly sort out whatever issue had arisen. I duly filled out such an application, and went........

© The Times of Israel (Blogs)

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