TEL AVIV – The Shin Bet security agency on Monday confirmed it had questioned two American leftwing activists, including former adviser to Senator Bernie Sanders Simone Zimmerman, at the border between Israel and Egypt on Sunday night.
The Shin Bet told the Haaretz newspaper Monday that it had ordered border control authorities to question the activists. It added that the focus of the questions was the pair’s “involvement in violent protest against Israeli security forces [in the West Bank].”
In a tweet the day before, Zimmerman claimed Israeli authorities had tried to intimidate her and a friend, former Middle East peace Quartet employee Abigail Kirschenblum, over their work with Palestinians.
She claimed she was asked, “Why did you come here to work with Palestinians? Why not with Jews?” as well as her opinion of Netanyahu.
“We are being questioned solely about our political opinions and activities vis a vis Palestinians esp in the occupied territories,” Zimmerman tweeted.
Both the Shin Bet and the border control personnel refuted that version of events. The Shin Bet said that if such questions were asked, it was not at its behest.
Population and Immigration Authority officials also denied asking the two women anything about politics, saying that the Shin Bet had delineated precisely which questions to ask.
The Population and Immigration Authority did however say that Zimmerman volunteered her opinion about Netanyahu.
“During her questioning, the traveler did make a statement of her own accord about the prime minister,” the authority said.
In its statement, the Shin Bet said it “did not ask to question the travelers about their opinions on state officials or ask to question them on their political positions. After being provided answers to the questions raised … [we] recommended allowing the travelers into Israel.”
Zimmerman said she told the authorities that she is currently living in Israel and works for Gisha, an Israeli human rights organization that assists Gazans. Gisha is financed by the George Soros-financed New Israel Fund (NIF), a radical, foreign-funded anti-Israel NGO.
According to Zimmerman, the official stopped her and said, “I want to know why you’re really here.”
“The scariest part is the horrifying realization of how badly the Israeli government wants to scare Jews away from Palestinians. They are using all tactics to make the cost of knowing & working with Palestinians too risky that we don’t dare to do it at all,” she tweeted.
Zimmerman was fired from her position with Democratic candidate Sanders in 2016 after it emerged that she had called Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu a “manipulative asshole” who is responsible for the mass murder of Palestinians.
“Bibi Netanyahu is an arrogant, deceptive, cynical, manipulative asshole,” she wrote in 2015. “Fuck you, Bibi… you sanctioned the murder of over 2,000 people this summer.”
Zimmerman is one of the founders of IfNotNow, which protests, among other things, Israel’s control of the West Bank and the Trump administration, and condemns American Jewish organizations that endorse them.
The group filmed walkouts of Birthright, claiming that the Israel tour was “hiding the realities of the occupation.”