Who says Jewish humor has disappeared from Israel? Who says that even the state's shadowiest organizations don't enjoy occasional moments of levity, in between carrying out assassinations and foiling conspiracies? Israel's ongoing fascistization, isolation, nationalism and militarism don't make for much comic relief. So listen to what Barak Ravid reported in Haaretz on Thursday.
A Spanish clown - it sounds like the start of a joke - lands in Israel. Not just any clown, but Spain's greatest, Ivan Prado. He expected to sail through passport control - a Spanish citizen, even a clown, needs no security authorization to enter the democratic State of Israel - claim his bags of tricks and continue to Ramallah.
He had planned, this joker, to establish an international clown festival in Ramallah, of all places. It was the mistake of a lifetime, a truly mad idea. First, what use do the Palestinians have for clowns from other countries? They have quite enough of their own, thank you. Anyway, what do they have to laugh about in Ramallah?
In the blink of an eye one of the Shin Bet's finest appeared, a true guardian of Israel, to take this jester in for questioning about his links to "terror groups." Prado, silly clown that he is, refused to answer. The Shin Bet agent (a clown of lesser renown ) apparently believed he had been chosen to save the day.
To make a long story short, after six hours of waiting miserably at Ben-Gurion International Airport Prado was informed by an Interior Ministry official, "You're being expelled. Get on the first flight to Madrid, where there's room for jokers like you." With that, Prado transmogrified into a prophet of the apocalypse. After landing in Spain he began denouncing Israel to the local press, comparing the Palestinians' plight with that of the Jews in wartime Poland. Just what we need, more Polish jokes.
The Israeli embassy in Madrid sent an urgent communique to Jerusalem: asking "What did you do?" The Foreign Ministry replied curtly, "security reasons." Rage spread through the embassy, which sought a more substantive response with which to counter questions from the Spanish media, sure that a clown's deportation for "security reasons" must be some kind of joke. But the Shin Bet security service and the Defense Ministry did not bother to reply. "The man declined to provide complete information to the security people, especially in regard to his links with Palestinian terror organizations," the Shin Bet told Haaretz in response to a request.
A textual interpretation: Prado, as understood by the omniscient Shin Bet, clearly has links with terror groups, otherwise he wouldn't want to establish a clown festival in Ramallah. Worse, he refused to speak about those links. Which "terror groups"? Islamic Jihad or the Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades perhaps? Al-Qaida? Iran's Quds Force? What links? Was the clown considering transferring Spain's vast stockpiles of laughter to hostile elements? Joke bombs to the jihadists? A devastating punch line to Hamas? "You can laugh," a Foreign Ministry official said afterward, "but the incident has already caused serious damage to Israel's image abroad, which only increased when Israel failed to provide a serious explanation."
Prado is not alone. Were the story not so inane, grotesque and infuriating we might hurt ourselves laughing. But dozens of foreign visitors have been similarly expelled in the past few months because they were suspected of sympathizing with the Palestinians - a grave offense indeed. These are people of conscience who came to express support for the Palestinians but were foiled by the airport's thought police. The Jewish-American historian Norman Finkelstein was expelled for supporting a one-state solution to the Mideast conflict and believing that Israel has turned the Holocaust into an industry. But had he requested a new immigrant document he would have to receive one immediately, in accordance with the Law of Return. But to come to visit and dare to criticize? Send him back to America.
Likewise, three Swedish activists for a Jewish-Palestinian educational group were recently expelled, as was an American journalist who had worked for years for the Palestinian news agency Ma'an. Has anyone ever heard of a supporter or benefactor of the most extremist of settlers being deported? Please - don't make the Shin Bet and the Interior Ministry laugh.
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