Editorial

The Shin Bet State Is Here

This is not an isolated instance or a mistake, rather it is a ramping up of the political persecution of opponents of the occupation within Israel

Simone Zimmerman and Abby Kirschbaum in Jaffa on August 6, 2018.
Meged Gozani

As part of the war that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is waging against the “enemy within” – that is, anyone who thinks differently than he does – the state has adopted the despicable practices of a thought police in its attempt to intimidate and silence opponents of the occupation from Israel and abroad.

The way the Shin Bet security service squirmed over its involvement in detaining an American leftist at the Taba crossing on Sunday does not diminish the seriousness of the incident.

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On the contrary, it shows that the circle of the political persecutors and persecuted is widening. The Shin Bet confirmed that Simone Zimmerman, who works for the NGO Gisha, and Abigail Kirschbaum, who worked for the Mideast Quartet, were questioned as directed by the Shin Bet, but that it was not this agency that initiated or conducted the questioning. That was done by border-crossing security personnel, and the Shin Bet did not instruct them to ask political questions, such as Zimmerman and Kirschbaum’s opinion of Netanyahu.

But the distinction between the Shin Bet and border-crossing security is not of any real importance. Neither is the crucial question of “who gave the order” – the Shin Bet or a “patriotic” border-crossing supervisor.

Because this is not an isolated instance or a mistake, rather it is a ramping up of the political persecution of opponents of the occupation within Israel. Not only the Shin Bet, but the border-crossing personnel, are on the lookout for leftists.

Three fronts can be seen in the persecution of opponents of the occupation: The Interior Ministry prevents the entry of non-Israeli BDS supporters who appear on a list provided by the Ministry of Strategic Affairs; the Population, Immigration and Border Authority profiles tourists on behalf of the Shin Bet to find leftists coming to Israel to protest the occupation; and the Shin Bet detains Israeli leftists at the airport or summonses them to Jerusalem for a “warning conversation.”

The illusion held by many Israelis that persecution and silencing of others as practiced in the occupied territories would not trickle over the pre-1967 border, and would not hurt non-Arabs, is now shattering, and the last word has not yet been said.

A test of loyalty to Israel’s policies has gained the status of an entry visa under the auspices of the Shin Bet and other surveillance services. Those who have been hurt by this conduct should be encouraged to ask the High Court of Justice to rule on whether this type of interrogation at Israel’s borders is legal, and to require the security services to institute transparent procedures.

Opposition MKs must demand that the “black lists” collected in Gilad Erdan’s Public Security Ministry and by other ministries be made public, and they must  launch legislation to ban political persecution of visitors to Israel. We should not wait until other countries adopt the shameful practices of the Israeli government and apply them to tourists from Israel, in order to realize the extent of the damage Israelis may incur from the government’s policy.