banned from the “only democracy in the middle east”

In summer of 2015 I set off the write my undergraduate thesis on the efficacy of interpersonal peace-building programming across Israel, Palestine and Jordan. I secured funding from the Oldenborg Travel Research Grant to travel and conduct site visits and interviews across 7 institutions and 25 stakeholders asking a simple question—do encounter-based peace programs have long term effects on an enduring peace in the region. I would say I was hopeful to find that these programs were a success. I had spent much of my undergraduate education studying international relations, mediation and conflict resolution domestically and internationally and believed that bringing people together to see each other’s common humanity was the answer to solving protracted conflict. However, my research was dismaying, and I found that most stake holders agreed that although the programs had short-term effects, without a political solution conflict in the region and denial of Palestinian rights would continue.

Before I could finish my interviews or aggregate my data, I was detained and deported at the King Hussein Bridge while on my way from Amman to Jerusalem for an interview. My items were thoroughly searched, notebook photocopied, emails, texts, Facebook messages gone through and recorded as well as the name of all Arab contacts in my phone and on Facebook. After 8 hours at the border I was turned away and told I was banned from Israel for 5 years.

I was embarrassed as well as scared after this incident. I felt nervous that any association with me could potentially endanger those who had spoken to me for my research. I abandoned my original research after 2 months of site visits and interviews and that data has sat encrypted and untouched since. I pivoted to researching what happened to me: targeted exclusion of US citizens at Israel’s external border crossings. What resulted was a paper recording my findings.


In partial fulfillment of the requirements for the Bachelor of Arts in International Relations at Pomona College Pomona College Claremont, CA April 29, 2016

Despite seemingly discriminatory practices at the border directed towards US citizens, no formal academic work has been conducted on the subject. This study is the first of its kind, which examines the phenomenon of the denying and banning of US citizens from the external Israeli border crossings. It draws upon the cases of 110 US citizens who have been banned or denied from the external Israeli border crossings from 1987-2015. This study finds that denial is often associated with Palestinian Americans, Arab Americans, Muslim Americans, Black Americans and Americans who personally identify as activists or are considered by border officials to be so. It argues that Israel’s actions at their border crossings have become increasingly standardized over time through practices of “stealth authoritarianism” that create the veneer of due process in the execution of a denial or ban and lead to difficulties pursuing redress. Finally, this study puts forth how this practice fits within the broader context of Israeli policies regarding the subjugation of Palestinians living in the occupied Palestinian territories and Israel proper as well as individuals suspected of being activists working towards Palestinian liberation. Ultimately, this study hopes to lay a multi-disciplinary groundwork for understanding the implications of the denial and banning of US citizens at the external Israeli border crossings for those who wish to pursue the topic in the future.

Recommended Citation

Goss, Alexandra, "Banned from the Only Democracy in the Middle East: Targeted Exclusion at Israel’s External Border Crossings" (2016). Pomona Senior Theses. 166.