Opinion

When Europe Bars Israelis

Whos next after Israel bars members of BDS groups from entry? Critical journalists and academics? Rabbis who dont align themselves with the far right? College students who want to learn the Palestinian perspective?

A photo of Dr. Zvi Bar'el.
Zvi Bar'el
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An anti-Israel protest at Carnegie Mellon University campus in Pittsburgh.Credit: AP
A photo of Dr. Zvi Bar'el.
Zvi Bar'el

At last the perfect weapon against Israel boycotters has been found: blacklists of pro-Palestinian human rights activists, and directors of organizations engaged in Israel-bashing.

The names of these enemies will be fed into the Immigration Authority computers at the airport, and they will be required to pass the Interior Ministrys criteria test – a new term in the campaign against these enemies.

The test will determine whether they are worthy of entering the country. The forces of darkness wont rest until the country is purged of its boycotters.

Who's on Israel's BDS blacklist
Who's on Israel's BDS blacklist.

Besides showing moral rot, its hard to see the logic in this decision. The boycott and the activity of those who promote it do their work outside the country, on university campuses, in preventing appearances by Israelis abroad, in monitoring companies that do business with Israel and with the settlers in particular.

Preventing the boycotters from entering Israel isnt going to affect the amount of damage that these organizations can cause. Whom or what are they going to influence if they are permitted into the country? Those Israelis who are unhappy with the occupation? The Palestinians love for Israel? 

Like any sovereign country, Israel has the right to permit or prevent the entry of foreign citizens into its territory, and also to expel or arrest foreigners who break the countrys laws or act to harm it. But theres a difference between someone who seeks to commit a terror attack or a regular crime within Israels borders, and someone who opposes its policies and views it as an occupying force. 

The expansion of entry restrictions through a dictatorial interpretation that equates criticism with a terror attack or criminal offense wont end with the Interior Ministrys criteria. Soon were liable to see the interior minister granted the authority to expel critical journalists, foreign academics who dont fully embrace the Israeli formula for defining the states borders, rabbis who interpret the Jewish religion differently than Habayit Hayehudi, foreign students who came here to study but also to get to know the Palestinian angle of the conflict, and even politicians who dont recognize Jerusalem as Israels capital.

All of them could one day find themselves on a plane back to where they came from, before even getting to enter the arrival hall at Ben-Gurion Airport. 

Worse, blacklists are not a one-way street. Countries whose citizens are barred from entering Israel could take reciprocal action. Instead of just barring products manufactured in the territories, they could bar the owners of those factories from entering their countries. For its the producers of the products and not the products themselves that play a part in the institutionalization of the occupation.

And whats to stop them from barring settlers from entering their countries? Like Israel, these countries could also adopt criteria saying that any Israeli whose residence is in the territories will be required to obtain a special entry permit that will only be granted for humanitarian reasons.

Such action would make sense coming from those countries that are opposed to agreements, including free trade agreements with Israel, also applying to the territories. Each one of these countries has the same sovereign right as Israel does to bar unwanted visitors. 

Barring entry into Israel of boycott supporters or occupation opponents is playing with fire, and could complicate Israels relations with many countries. Ultimately, the ones who bear the brunt of the damage from this foolish, vengeful whim are the Israelis who will be made to serve as pawns in this hollow game of prestige. 

This is the fast track for turning the country into a ghetto with an isolated citizenry content with its lot and with the government that is leading it headlong into the abyss. What works well in Gaza can also work in Israel.