What Does Israel Have to Hide?

From a state that invited the world to come and marvel at its achievements, under Netanyahu Israel has become a state that is closed and closed off.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara greet youths during their visit to the Moriah War Memorial College in Sydney, Australia, February 23, 2017.

The Interior Ministry’s Population, Immigration and Border Authority, acting on Foreign Ministry instructions, denied a work visa to a researcher from Human Rights Watch, saying that the advocacy organization’s activities further Palestinian propaganda. The explanation did not refer to the identity of the researcher, an American of Iraqi origin.

The foreign and interior ministries exploited a personnel change at Human Rights Watch, attempting to block the entry of the new Israel researcher. A spokesman cited the group’s “extreme, hostile and anti-Israel agenda.”

This administrative decision of government officials reflects the policy of their political bosses and the paranoid, isolationist disposition of the Netanyahu administration. It is the conduct of regimes that seek to conceal human-rights violations. Israel, friendly foreign governments and representatives of world Judaism were among the main forces opposing disruptions to the monitoring of rights violations against Jews in the Soviet Union and in Arab states. Tyrannical regimes prioritize the suppression of their citizens above their international reputations.

Beyond the fact that Israel is assuming characteristics of dark regimes, this archaic approach ignores the accessibility of information. Does anyone in the Foreign Ministry serious believe that the violation of human rights in Israel and the territories would remain secret if the researcher were to be kept out? That no one would know, or be able to provide proof, and that Israel would be acquitted due to a lack of evidence? Just the opposite, in fact: When Israel fails to cooperate, only its accusers’ side is heard. Even when the United States uses its veto power to defeat an anti-Israel resolution, it does not erase the accusations and only causes more damage to Israel’s image.

It seems that the Trump administration, which seeks to shut America’s gates to foreigners, is giving the Netanyahu government a shot in the arm. Just as the fence that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu built along Israel’s border with Egypt anticipated the wall that President Donald Trump plans to build against Mexico, Netanyahu can claim primacy in this area too: In the past five years, the number of people refused entry into Israel rose ninefold. Trump still has a way to go.

After U.S. officials expressed dissatisfaction with the Foreign Ministry’s decision, Netanyahu had to make a U-turn. Within hours, a firm refusal turned into willingness to issue the researcher with a tourist visa, a sort of suspended sentence whose erasure depends on the organization’s attitude toward Israel. But the destructive trend led by the right for the past several years continues, from a state that invited the world to come and marvel at its achievements, under Netanyahu Israel has become a state that is closed and closed off, fearful of foreigners who arrive and of Israelis who travel abroad (representatives of Breaking the Silence). It wants only visitors who won’t criticize it.

The above article is Haaretz's lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel