Israeli authorities deported an American journalist this morning (Jan. 20), following eight days in an airport holding cell. Jared Malsin, 26, was English editor of Maan News, a Bethlehem-based Palestinian news outlet.
Malsin, a Yale graduate and son of a Jewish father, had been living in Jerusalem for about two years. Unable to obtain a work visa from Israeli authorities, who refused to grant media accreditation to Maan News, he stayed in Israel on a tourist visa, which he had to renew every three months. Malsin had just returned from a brief holiday in Prague, timed to coincide with expiration of his most recent visa.
Upon landing in Tel Aviv he was detained by Israeli security officials and interrogated for several hours; baed on his responses to some of the questions, Malsin was labeled 'uncooperative' and a 'security risk.' He was placed in a holding cell pending a deportation hearing (click here to read the timeline of Malsin's detention in the Maan New press release).
Malsin's girlfriend, Faith Rowlond, was deported immediately to Prague. He was initially denied access to a lawyer or to US consulate officials, and had no contact with his family or girlfriend during the week he was held in detention.
According to Israeli security sources, several concerns arose when Malsin was questioned at the airport. These concerns were then relayed to the Ministry of the Interior, which decided against allowing Malsin to re-enter the country. The decision to deny him entry into the country happens to coincide with a report published in Haaretz about new Ministry of Interior policies that woud effectively deny work visas to foreign nationals employed by international NGOs in Israel and the West Bank.
Maan News assistant editor George Hale said that he had no idea why Malsin was deported. 'There is no way anyone could believe Jared was a security risk,' he told Provoices. 'He had excellent relations with Israeli officials; and he was frequently invited to press events that were hosted by the Israeli army.'
According to the transcript of Malsin's interrogation, his interrogators searched for his articles online, read them and accused him of writing reports that were overly critical of Israel. He was also questioned about the names of Palestinian acquaintances that were found on his mobile phone; based on his responses to those questions, Malsin was deemed 'uncooperative.'
While Arab-Israeli attorney Daoud Castro struggled to convince the judge to set a date for Malsin's deportation hearing, his client was kept in a windowless holding cell at Ben Gurion Airport, with neither phone access to his family nor a set of clean clothes. Given his uncomfortable physical circumstances, combined with the fact that he would not be allowed to appear at the hearing, Castro convinced the judge that Malsin should be allowed to wait in Prague for a decision to be made regarding his deportation.
Shortly after Castro informed his client of the judge's decision, he was shocked to discover that Malsin was being deported immediately. It turned out that Jared signed a document just after his attorney left, believing it was a formality related to his departure for Prague. In fact, the document stated that Malsin was withdrawing his challenge to the deportation order.
George Hale said that Malsin called him from an armored car as he was being driven to the plane that would take him to New York. Hale said that Malsin sounded 'confused and shaken.'
Malsin's family lives in New Hampshire and his girlfriend was still waiting for him in Prague. Israeli authorities did not explain why they put him on a flight to New York, rather than to Boston or Prague.
told the BBC that any claim Malsin was being deported for his writing was 'absurd.', the prime minister's spokesman,
But the statements from security services, the prime minister's office and the Ministry of the Interior are contradictory. It is unclear, from their statements, whether Malsin was deported for his writing, for being uncooperative with security officials, for presenting a security risk, or for overstaying his visa. Security services sources emphasized that they did not make the decision to recommend Malsin be deported.
Ironically, Malsin's Jewish father makes him eligible for Israeli citizenship under the Law of Return, which grants automatic citizenship to Jews.