On International Travel and Crossing Borders:

  • EFF’s guide to border crossing and devices is the most extensive resource and a solid primer on rights and behaviors:
  • General Tips:
    • Consider the information on your devices. If you’re able to, taking burner phones and computers is a good thing to do and the best way of making sure that your device doesn’t have extra data on it.
    • Store only info that is specifically needed for the trip – contact info necessary to arrive at your destination, etc. Include a legal support number in case things get weird and it’s needed.
    • It’s often recommended to make your phone look regular in some capacity whether through casual communication or through app installs, whatever.
    • Carry backups of crucial information in case device is confiscated – if certain information is sensitive but crucial, store it in a different way – have it sent to an email not associated with the device or use secure, trusted cloud storage – and access only after passing through the airport/checkpoint.
    • Go in with devices powered down – breaking in is harder to do from all the way off, especially if you’ve encrypted it. However, make sure you are able to power your device on – you may be asked to do this to demonstrate that is a functioning computing device.
    • Keep in mind that you may be in a position where you feel you have no choice but to unlock a device for border control agents.
    • Depending on where you’re headed, burner phones may be readily available – the easiest way to not have device scrutiny is to not have a device.

Travel to Palestine:

  • Before flying to Tel Aviv, it’s a really good idea to take some basic precautions to keep yourself, your comrades, and your data safe. Israel uses their borders as great information gathering opportunities and it’s best to reduce the extent to which they are able to do that.
    • Google yourself (using your passport name); see what comes up and if it’s anything related to Palestine or activism, see if you can get it taken down. This is easy if it’s as simple as just using your initials instead of full name on a blog post, but often isn’t possible if you don’t have control over the page.
    • Deactivate your Facebook; if you have anything political on it, it’s best to just temporarily deactivate before you get on the plane until after you get through the border. We all know that privacy settings are a joke and if you have ever posted anything that you would not like to explain to an Israeli border guard, just deactivate.
    • Have at least one “clean” email account; if you use your email account for activism or have anything that you don’t want them to read, then you will need to have another that has nothing you wouldn’t want them to see on it. One method is to use a school or work email address for everything innocuous and then keep everything activist/political in a personal account. Or else, you can make a second personal account and just keep it free of anything sensitive. However, if it looks like you never use it or it is brand new, this will be just as suspicious. Sign up for some newsletters with your second personal account, and have some simple conversations with friends, so that it looks like you use it regularly.
    • Limit the amount of electronics that you bring; don’t bring your laptop if you don’t need to; a tablet or Chromebook are better. Don’t bring your smartphone if you don’t need to; cheap burner phones are available in Palestine.
    • Take care of any sensitive files on the electronics that you do bring; back up laptop files and leave them on an external hard drive at home, especially anything political or related to activist work. Same for photos on your laptop or phone; anything that you wouldn’t want to explain to a border guard (protests, symbols, nudity, etc.), delete it. If you back up your files automatically to the cloud, then it is very easy to delete them and un-sync your device from the account. Read through your text messages as well and delete any that you wouldn’t want them to read or that contain information you don’t plan on volunteering.
    • Think carefully about your contacts; try not to put too much information about people in your contacts. Especially for your contacts in Palestine, there is no reason to use full names with their contact information. Use initials, nicknames, or shortened versions.
  • At the Border
    • Think carefully about what you are going to say; as a general rule, you will have a much easier time at the border if you do not mention Palestine. At all. This does not mean that you have to lie. There are ways to frame the purpose of your trip and destinations that might just omit that you are going to the West Bank. A safe bet is always to say that you are a tourist and you are going first to Jerusalem, and are not sure of your itinerary from there. It is best if you can name a place that you are staying in West Jerusalem (Abraham Hostel is popular), and even better if you can show a reservation there. Here is also a good time to name drop any Israelis who you know or Jewish friends who you may be visiting.
    • Do NOT volunteer information; particularly if you are interrogated for an extended time, their goal will to be extract as much information as possible. You never know what information they are trying to get, so anything that you volunteer could be damaging to you or someone else. A common trick they will use is to call you a liar and say that they don’t believe you, so that you will try to prove your trustworthiness by offering another piece of information. If you are asked about other people, your answers should be as vague as possible. There is no excuse for giving information on anyone else. Even if that information seems innocent.
    • Stay calm; don’t seem nervous & don’t get mad. They are very manipulative, but you need to keep your cool.  This all may seem like over-kill, but especially in this situation, it is better safe than sorry. Not only do you want to be able to enjoy your trip, but carelessness with this kind of security by those of us who don’t live under this level of surveillance can have dire consequences, particularly for Palestinians.