DUNDEE trade union representatives were detained and interrogated for two hours on Wednesday as they tried to leave Israel after a visit to Palestine.

The group arrived at Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv following a visit to Dundee’s twin town Nabulus in Palestine.

They were stopped by security and immediately identified as the Dundee Trade Union delegation.

Mike Arnott of Dundee Trade Union Congress, Jim Malone of the Fire Brigades Union, Dundee councillor Pete Shears, and Mary McGregor, convener of the Dundee/Nablus Twinning Association, were all detained.

The delegation was to fly from Tel Aviv to Milan, then onto Edinburgh.

The group were questioned at passport control, before being allowed to check in their baggage and proceed to security. Their boarding passes were then flagged, and they were consequently refused permission to board the plane to Milan before being interrogated.

Shears was acting in his capacity as Political Officer for the Communication Workers Union’s Edinburgh, Dundee, & Borders branch. He described the agent questioning him as getting “very visibly frustrated as his attempts to catch us out failed”.

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Shears added he and the group were accused of lying about the purpose of the trip.

He said: “I was singled out for questioning by a very aggressive member of the authorities who repeatedly accused me of lying while lying himself by saying he'd seen a printed itinerary of our visit, which has never been created.”

The purpose of the week-long visit was to sign a historical solidarity and cooperation agreement between Dundee Trade Union and the General Union Council of Palestinian Labour Unions (PGFTU). The Fire Brigade Union also announced a donation of a new fire engine from Scotland to the city of Nablus’ Fire Department.

They also participated in solidarity activities such as olive harvesting in Asira.

The National: Some of the delegation, including Mike Arnott and Dundee councillor Pete Shears helping to plant olive trees.Some of the delegation, including Mike Arnott and Dundee councillor Pete Shears helping to plant olive trees. (Image: Jim Malone)

As the interrogation escalated, Shears said he was asked if the intention of the trip was to support Palestine.

Shears said: “He began to become more and more aggressive in his questioning culminating in him simply asking me if the intention of our visit was support for Palestinian people.

“As far as I am aware, support of the Palestinian people is not a criminal offence but given the tense situation I just repeated that we were a trade union delegation and had met with the PGFTU.”

Shears, who is the first Dundee councillor to visit the twin city of Nabulus for 40 years, said that he believed this was a “very deliberate act of harassment and intimation by the Israeli state” to punish the delegation for speaking to the Palestinian people.

The group were finally allowed to board the plane for Milan, and then saw some of their luggage being removed from the plane.

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Shears said: “We saw our luggage being removed from the plane, and as expected it did not arrive in Milan with us. We have yet to receive our luggage, and Jim's iPad still shows it being in Ben Gurion airport.

“We are lucky in that we were able to return home safely, and any luggage lost can be replaced.

“The Palestinian people experience this treatment every single day at the hands of the Israeli authorities.

“I cannot express the love, warmth, and welcome given to us by the Palestinian people in stark contrast to the aggression and intimidation dished out by Israeli authorities.”