Opinion

Blacklist: Top 13 Delegitimizers Who Should Be Denied Entry Into Israel

It's high time that we who are concerned for Israel's welfare went after the worst of its delegitimizers, those who contribute the most to the criticism of Israel as a repressive, illiberal regime

File photo: Strategic Affairs Minister Gilad Erdan, Culture Minister Miri Regev, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in 2017.
Marc Israel Sellem

For Israel, this will go down as an era of blacklists.

There are blacklists of people who are prohibited from marrying here, blacklists of rabbis who cannot marry them, and blacklists of married people who must jump through hoops for permission to join spouses in Israel.

In fact, as 2018 began, the government of Israel toasted the New Year with a blacklist no one had seen before. It lifted secrecy on and published a list of 20 organizations whose members would be denied entry into Israel.

According to Strategic Affairs Minister Gilad Erdan, entry into Israel would be denied to activists on the basis of "de facto promoting the delegitimization of Israel."

>> When Israeli patriotism exceeds rationalism and the good of the state | Analysis ■ Lara Alqasem and Israel's anti-constitutional revolution | Opinion

Interior Minister Arye Dery, whose ministry is charged with carrying out interrogation, detention, and deportation of activists, backed Erdan, declaring: "These people are trying to exploit the law and our hospitality to act against Israel and to defame the country. I will act against this by every means."

Let's assume, for the moment, that they're right, that activists whose words and deeds delegitimize, isolate, and blacken the image of Israel should be stopped at the border, grilled like drug mules, and put on the next plane out.

It's high time, then, that we who are concerned for Israel's welfare went after the worst of its de-legitimizers. It's time we barred entry to the most influential and effective of the ringleaders of demonization, those who contribute the most to the criticism of Israel as a repressive, illiberal regime.

Here, then, is a draft of the new blacklist.

1. GILAD ERDAN – As minister for public security, strategic affairs and, incredibly, hasbara, or Israeli public relations, Erdad did enough to make the delegitimization list last year when, among other outrages, he rushed to declare that Negev Bedouin Israeli teacher Yakub Abu al-Kiyan, killed by police during the demolition of his home, was a "terrorist" apparently motivated by ISIS.

Erdan, who later quietly walked back the charge, has spearheaded the effort to deport American student Lara Alqasem, who received a visa to study for a masters at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, only to be detained now for weeks at Ben-Gurion Airport over spurious allegations that she supports BDS and represents a threat to Israel.

The judicial handling of the case, so amateurish and biased as to have caused the expression "kangaroo court" to take on the colors of an undeserved compliment, has acted to further delegitimize Israel, a particularly flagrant example of the Netanyahu government's bizarre, internally bickering and fundamentally self-defeating efforts to "fight" boycotts.

Erdan has further delegitimized Israel by casting himself as both the martyred saint and the hero in the case, blaming criticism of his actions on unnamed "leftists" out to get him. Erdan failed to mention that among those who have strongly criticized his and Israel's handling of the case are the conservative, strongly pro-Israel New York Times columnists Bret Stephens and Bari Weiss, who decried the "paranoid policy" under which Alqasem was detained. "Societies that shun or expel their critics aren’t protecting themselves," they wrote. "They are advertising their weakness."

If that were not enough, right-leaning former Israeli Ambassador to Washington Michael Oren declared last week that "the policy that is being implemented now is clearly causing us political damage," urging “a re-examination of Israel’s policy in order to protect ourselves and our image as a democratic and enlightened society.”

2. CANARY MISSION – The con artists who supplied to Erdan and Deri's people the disingenuous, simplistic and misleading accusations which led to Alqasem's detention, Canary Mission is a cowardly, anonymous, clumsily childish parody of McCarthyite crusaderism in bogus "pro-Israel" form.

A back-room online "organization" lavishly financed through fleecing of Jewish institutions and a super-hush-hush-donor network, Canary Mission has played the Israeli system all the way up to conning Erdan's super-hush-hush-we're-playing-spies multi-million-dollar cash cow / pork barrel / budgeted-at-$72 million boondoggle "non-profit anti-delegitimization corporation" known as Kela Shlomo, or Solomon's Slingshot.

Canary Mission's methods, its cultivation of its own non-transparency, the lies it tells, the blacklist it promotes, the reputations and lives it seeks to ruin, have already done more serious harm to Israel and the Netanyahu government than has anyone Canary Mission has – often entirely unfairly – named.

3. MIRI REGEV – Netanyahu's culture minister, who rose to prominence by branding Sudanese asylum seekers in Israel as "a cancer in our body," is now pushing for passage of a bill known as the "Loyalty in Culture Law" or, simply, the "Miri Regev Law."

The law aims to expand on two previous measures which have served to delegitimize Israel, the Naqba law (meant to penalize observance of the Palestinian experience in the wake of Israel's 1948 war of independence, during which some 700,000 Palestinians fled or were forced to flee their homes) and the boycott law.

If the new bill is passed, Regev would have the power to silence artists by cutting funding for art that criticizes Israel and/or the Netanyahu government – including, for example, denying that Israel is a democracy.

File photo: Construction and Housing Minister Yoav Galant, Culture Minister Miri Regev, and MK Oren Hazan in the Knesset, March 2018.
Olivier Fitoussi

4. KOHELET FORUM – For initiating, promoting, and driving to passage the nation-state law, the single most damaging law to Israel's image – and future – as a democratic state, the little known, hugely influential neo-conservative Kohelet Forum think tank may have done more to harm Israel than any other single organization.

Soon after the law was passed in July, for example, State Attorney Harel Arnon said the government planned to use the measure as the constitutional basis for retroactively legalizing settlement outposts that even Israel had seen as illegal.

Moreover, the far-reaching nation-state law may be just the beginning. Kohelet Executive Director Meir Rubin has been quoted as boasting, but with good reason: “We run the Knesset”

5. OREN HAZAN – The Likud lawmaker last week effectively attacked the concept of Israel as a state where Jews and Arabs live in equality and co-existence by issuing a scathing and stridently bigoted public attack on Israeli Arab news anchor Lucy Aharish for having married Jewish Israeli  actor Tzachi Halevy,  known for his role in the series Fauda.

“I don’t blame Lucy Aharish for seducing a Jewish soul with the goal of harming our country and for preventing more Jewish progeny from continuing the Jewish dynasty, on the contrary she is welcome to convert.” Hazan also assailed "his brother" Halevy for "Islamizing."

6. YARIV LEVIN – The Likud tourism minister – the nation-state law's legislative whip, and among those who insisted that the word "equality" not be included in the law - this week took a further step toward delegitimizing Israel when he dismissed the murder of a Palestinian woman in the West Bank, possibly at the hands of stone-throwing Israeli settlers, as no more than a "cast-off snippet of an incident."

7. AVIGDOR LIEBERMAN – Where to begin? Perhaps at the end – the defense minister's decision, against the advice of his own generals and senior civilian security officials, to collectively punish all residents of the Gaza Strip for incendiary balloon and kite arson attacks against neighboring Israeli towns, kibbutzim and moshavim.

Lieberman has touted his cutting-off of fuel supplies to Gaza – already crippled by a humanitarian disaster in which drinking water and electricity are in dangerously short supply – to burnish his tough-guy image ahead of elections.

8. ARYE DERY – As interior minister, Dery has overseen the detention at the border of a lengthening list of suspected enemies of Israel. Among them: Jennifer Spitzer (formerly Gorovitz), former head of the San Francisco Jewish Federation, detained for questioning at the airport over her current role as vice president of the New Israel Fund; pro-Israel philanthropist Meyer Koplow, chairman of the board of Brandeis University; Simone Zimmerman, a prominent American Jewish anti-occupation activist who lives and works in Israel, whose interrogation included her opinion of Netanyahu; and noted U.S. author and commentator Peter Beinart, who had come to Israel to attend his niece's bat-mitzvah.

File photo: Interior Minister Arye Dery speaks with Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman in the Knesset, January 2018.
Olivier Fitoussi

9. U.S. AMBASSADOR TO ISRAEL DAVID FRIEDMAN – For harming Israel by alienating and enraging American Jews, when he stated that the vast majority of them, those who advocated a two-state solution, were "worse than kapos" and that J Street and its supporters were "just smug advocates of Israel’s destruction." And for refusing to apologize until he was forced to do so, on pain of not being confirmed to the ambassadorial post.

10. ISRAEL AMBASSADOR TO WASHINGTON RON DERMER - The onetime Republican Party operative turned Netanyahu whisperer, for harming Israel by boycotting and refusing to meet with 

J Street and other left-of-center but avowedly pro-Israel groups of American Jews. At the same time, he has delegitimized Israel and undermined traditionally bipartisan support by unashamedly favoring Republicans and Donald Trump, for whom he helped draft an address to AIPAC during the 2016 campaign.

11. YAIR NETANYAHU – For harming Israel by promoting anti-Semitism, by using anti-Semitic imagery in "defending" his father the prime minister against suspicions of corruption – an effort praised by onetime KKK leader David Duke.

12. BEZALEL SMOTRICH – For harming Israel by a continuing series of statements expressing unconditional hatred of Arabs and gays. The coalition legislator has distinguished himself by stating, for example, that Israeli maternity wards should be segregated because "it is natural that my wife would not want to lay down next to someone who just gave birth to a baby who might want to murder her baby in another 20 years."

13. BENJAMIN NETANYAHU – For delegitimizing Israel by promoting anti-democratic legislation and by alienating and enraging Reform and Conservative Jews, reneging on specific agreements and selling out to Orthodox pressure on the key issue of egalitarian prayer at the Western Wall. For harming Israel by promoting anti-Semitism, praising authoritarian world leaders who have fomented hatred of Jews and have vilified philanthropist George Soros as an avatar for a world Jewish conspiracy. For harming Israel by exploiting the Holocaust to pursue political goals.