Latest update: December 30th, 2013
SEE UPDATE AT THE END OF THE ARTICLE, BELOW THE VIDEO CLIP
Is it possible that an American – true, a Jewish one – was detained for nine hours after landing in England to begin what was to be a summer job and then, after being subjected to anti-Semitic comments and threats, was kicked out? The 23 year old American was kept in a holding cell, denied all but the meanest of basic necessities, had his passport and luggage taken away, was treated to several nasty anti-Semitic remarks, and then was kicked out of the country as if he were a criminal. All of this happened, it appears, because the young man had several Israeli stamps on his passport.
It is a story that has taken a little while to get its sea legs, but one which people should begin hearing more about.
Louis Schlezinger “Chip” Cantor is from Kansas City, Kansas. He spent his gap year on a Young Judea program in Israel, and has been there several other times as well. This fall Cantor will be a senior at Florida Gulf State University.
During the school year Cantor made arrangements to work in London this summer with Shilling Communications. He left for England late on May 29.
A tale of shocking treatment by airport border security of a western country, one that is ostensibly an ally of both the United States and Israel, was described in an article in Cantor’s hometown Jewish paper, the Kansas City Jewish Chronicle.
After landing in London, Cantor made his way to the customs agent. Once it was his turn to hand over his passport, everything proceeded smoothly, Cantor said, until the agent saw the stamps on his passport revealing that Cantor had traveled to Israel several times. With that, according to Cantor, the border security agent walked away with Cantor’s passport, and a long nightmare began.
About 45 minutes later, another border security agent brought Chip to an interview room, which was like a holding cell, and was told that “if he changed any of his answers to any questions, he was going to go to prison,” Chip’s father, Chuck, said. The father also said that a woman in a burka came to the cell and photographed and fingerprinted the 23 year old.
This same woman, according to Chuck Cantor, said to Chip, “We’re putting your name and fingerprints and photos into a database. From now on it is going to be very difficult for you to ever travel in the United Kingdom or anywhere in the E.U. It will be up to each individual country to decide if they want to admit you.”
Although the younger Cantor repeatedly told the agents that he had not committed any crimes or done anything wrong, he was eventually told he was going to be deported. It was not until this point that the border agents finally allowed Chip to call his father. His father told Chip to call the American Consulate or the U.S. Embassy, but the UK security officials refused both requests.
In addition to the initial trigger being Cantor’s passport having multiple stamps showing entry and exit from Israel, several other specific factors led the Cantors to believe that what motivated the shocking treatment of Cantor by the UK airport border security was anti-Semitism.
For one thing, as Chip Cantor explained in a television interview on local station KMBC, one of the agents said he wanted to see his wallet, because he expected there would be a lot of money in it.
Another was that when Kevin Shilling, the owner of the media company at which Cantor was going to work this summer, called to try and intervene while Cantor was being detained, the customs agent told him that Chip should have lied to the customs agent, adding, “A Jewish kid would find that easy,” Shilling told the Jewish Chronicle.
The border security agent also told Shilling any additional attempts to aid Cantor would be useless and “the little Jew will be on his way back to his rich daddy,” in a matter of hours.
When Cantor was finally escorted onto a plane to return to the U.S., the escort refused to turn over the American’s passport until they were on the plane, and only then, loudly and in full view of the rest of the passengers, the escort said to an airlines employee, “here is this man’s passport. Do not give him his passport until you land in the United States.”
The Jewish Press will continue to monitor this shocking story.
When reached by telephone, Senator Pat Roberts’ (R-KS) media assistant told The Jewish Press that the Senate staff is working with the Cantor family and is treating the matter as a constituent services issue.
Repeated efforts to reach the British Ambassador to the United States and many British Consul Generals were unsuccessful.
An interview with Chip and his father discussing the incident with a local Kansas City television station, is below:
UPDATE: The following was received from a British Embassy spokesperson:
The Home Office expects the highest levels of integrity and behaviour from all our staff. Any complaints of discrimination will be fully investigated.
About the Author: Lori Lowenthal Marcus is the US correspondent for The Jewish Press. She is a recovered lawyer who previously practiced First Amendment law and taught in Philadelphia-area graduate and law schools.
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