(JTA) — The agency that manages Israel’s border crossings apologized for any “anguish” caused by the questioning and detention of a leader of the New Israel Fund at Ben Gurion Airport.
The Population and Immigration Authority said Thursday that its interim director general, Amnon Shmueli, had spoken to the New Israel Fund’s president after the group’s vice president, Jennifer Gorovitz, was detained for questioning upon arrival in Israel on Wednesday, Haaretz reported.
“Shmueli made it clear that the questioning of Gorovitz was routine and that there was no intent to insult her. The director general apologized if she was caused any anguish,” the authority said.
Gorovitz reportedly was held for 90 minutes, prompting an opposition lawmaker to declare that she was being subjected to “political persecution.” NIF is an American-based nonprofit organization that funds various social justice, civil rights and left-wing groups in Israel. Right-wing groups have accused NIF of aiding Israel’s harshest critics. NIF has accused the groups of misrepresenting its work and lying about its grantees.
The questioning of Gorovitz prompted Knesset member Tamar Zandberg of the left-wing Meretz party to complain to Interior Minister Aryeh Deri.
“This is political persecution, harassment and an attempt to silence those who fight for Israeli society,” Zandberg wrote in a letter to Deri.
Gorovitz’s detention came on the same day that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sought to reprimand Belgian Ambassador to Israel Olivier Bellefor for meeting with the leaders of Breaking the Silence and B’Tselem, two Israeli NGOs that Netanyahu and his government consider anti-Israel.
“Israel views with utmost gravity Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel’s meeting today with the leaders of Breaking the Silence and B’Tselem, during his visit to Israel,” said the Prime Minister’s Office in a statement.“The government of Belgium needs to decide if it wants to change direction or continue with its anti-Israel path.”
Breaking the Silence is an NIF grantee. B’Tselem has also received funding from NIF.