Israel denies Christian peacemaker from entry

Israeli security officials at the King Hussein (Allenby) bridge turned back an American peace volunteer who is part of the Christian Peacemaker Teams in Hebron twice in the past week.

Jonathan Brenneman, 25, from St. Marys Ohio was turned back September 25th after a five hour wait at the border crossing. He had been denied entry for the second time. Earlier on September 17th he was denied entry on the justification that he didn't provide an invitation letter. Unable to apply for a visa at the Israeli embassy in Amman which has been closed for the Jewish holidays, he brought the invitation letter in his second visit as well as testimonials from Israelis only to be turned back. Brenneman has filed a report with the US embassy in Amman. His congressman, senator and US state department officials were also contacted.

Blogging about his experience, Brenneman said the Israeli soldier told him the second time that the reason for his denial was because Christian Peacemaker Teams is not a recognized organization. "I told the soldier that we legally do not need to be recognized by Israel, and I asked why that was a reason for not letting me in. He said his commander said I couldn't come in for that reason, and that was the end of the conversation."

Brenneman said that he was surprised at the denial of entry of a person coming for peace and at a time of peace talks. "I question why the Israeli authorities see people working for a well established 'violence reduction program' as a threat."

In his blog about the first entry denial Brenneman writes that an Israeli soldier trying to be friendly asked if Brenneman is a Jewish name.

In recent months Israeli border security have denied two other CPTers (one American and one from Holland) from crossing. This is the first time that Israeli officials have explicitly stated that Americans were denied entry because they are connected with the Christian Peacemaker Teams.

The Christian Peacemaker Teams made up mostly of peace churches (Mennonites, Brethren and Quakers) has been working in Hebron for 19 years. It is an international non-profit organization registered in the State of Illinois and a member of the Association of International Development Agencies (AIDA) in the occupied Palestinian Territories. It has partnered with the United Nations and Save the Children UK.

The mission of the Christian Peacemaker Teams is simple, Brenneman says. It is to support peacemaking efforts in conflict zones. "We support both Palestinian and Israeli non-violent grass roots peacemaking groups. We accompany children to school, helping ensure they are not attacked on their way to get an education."