Israel’s ugly new travel ban tells the World: Stay away if you don’t agree with us

Une loi interdit l’entrée en Israël des étrangers opposés à la politique du gouvernement. Trois articles du quotidien Haaretz du 8 mars 2017

Le Parlement israélien a adopté le 6 mars, en première lecture, une loi interdisant l’entrée des étrangers qui appellent au boycott d’Israël ou des colonies implantées au mépris du droit international en Cisjordanie. Ce vote a été encouragé par les mesures prises aux Etats-Unis par l’ami et le soutien de Netanyahu, Donald Trump, pour interdire l’entrée des ressortissants de certains pays musulmans. Son objectif proclamé est de combattre la campagne internationale Boycott Désinvestissement Sanctions déclenchée en 2005 à la demande de 172 ONG palestiniennes afin d’amener le gouvernement israélien à renoncer à la politique de colonisation au-delà des frontières de 1967. L’interdiction s’applique non seulement aux partisans du boycott d’Israël mais aussi à ceux qui prônent celui des produits de « toute région sous son contrôle », c’est-à-dire à ceux qui prônent uniquement le boycott des produits des colonies. Il est probable que cette loi va renforcer et radicaliser le mouvement BDS international. Surtout, sa conséquence pratique est de rendre impossible tout accès à la Cisjordanie et à Gaza aux étrangers voulant exprimer leur solidarité avec les Palestiniens. C’est une interdiction faite à une population isolée et recluse de recevoir des visites, un cadenas de plus pour enfermer les Palestiniens.

Nous reproduisons ici trois articles (que vous pouvez lire ci-dessous en anglais) parus le 8 mars 2017 dans le quotidien Haaretz qui critiquent vivement cette loi. Jonathan Lis relève que, lors du débat qui a précédé son adoption, le député de l’opposition Ayman Odeh l’a critiquée en disant que lors de son récent séjour aux Etats-Unis pour la Conférence de l’association J Street, il avait rencontré des milliers de Juifs américains partisans du boycott des colonies, « faudra-t-il leur interdire l’entrée ? » Un autre, Dov Khenin, a souligné que le monde entier est opposé à l’implantation des colonies, « faudra-t-il interdire l’entrée de tout étranger en Israël ? » La directrice du mouvement Jewish Voice for Peace, Rebecca Vilkomerson, a déclaré que «  le même jour où l’administration de Trump signait la seconde version de l’interdiction d’entrée inconstitutionnelle et discriminatoire visant les personnes originaires de certains pays musulmans, Israël a adopté sa propre interdiction d’entrée tout aussi discriminatoire pour les défenseurs pacifiques des droits des Palestiniens. Cela n’évitera pas l’extension du boycott et accentuera l’isolement d’Israël. Je suis très fière de soutenir le mouvement BDS ». La Paix maintenant a affirmé que cette interdiction n’était « ni juive, ni démocratique ». Pour Adalah et pour l’Association for Civil Rights in Israël (ACRI) « cette loi bafoue les principes démocratiques fondamentaux. Dans des dizaines de milliers de familles palestiniennes, un membre détient seulement un permis de séjour temporaire et il sera exposé à une suspension de son droit au séjour en raison de l’expression d’un point de vue critique vis-à-vis de la politique d’occupation ». Cela vise à isoler encore davantage les Palestiniens.
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Israel’s Ugly New Travel Ban Tells the World: Stay Away if You Don’t Agree
Allison Kaplan Sommer
Haaretz Correspondent

At first glance, Israel’s sweeping travel ban passed by the Knesset on Monday night essentially changes nothing. The authorities at Israel’s borders and airports already have complete discretion to keep anyone out, and numerous prospective visitors have been blacklisted and turned away because they are believed to be hostile to Israel.

They don’t need this law, which spells out support of boycotting of any Israeli institution or any area under its control as grounds to block their entrance as visitor.

But, actually, it changes everything. The statement it makes and the message it sends – that those who so deeply object to the occupation that they choose not to buy settlement products – are no longer welcome to visit, see and experience their country is a drastic shift in Israel’s relationship with the outside world.

Historically, those who believe in Israel’s value to the world, despite the conflicts and problems, have always preached that seeing is believing.

I include myself in that group. When I’ve encountered anyone abroad who want to argue about Israel’s policies, even those who object to the state’s very existence as a result of the occupation, my response is always the same: Challenge and an invitation.

“Well, have you been to Israel?” I ask them at an opportune moment in our conversation, whether my counterpart is on the left or the right, passionately pro-settlement or anti-occupation.

More often than not, the answer is no and the person in question has never been to either Israel or Palestine and they are basing their political positions on what they’ve been seen or told. Then, I tell them, “well, come and see for yourself. Then decide”

My bias is that until someone has been here, seen, and experienced what happens in this agonizingly complex nation and reach their conclusions based on what they’ve observed with their eyes and heard from actual Israelis and Palestinians in their home environment, the value of their opinions is limited.

As an added bonus, the very fact that they took the time and expense to make the trip convinces me that they truly care.The opposite of love, after all, is not hatred – but distance and detachment.

Until now, the government of Israel and those who support it have shared that approach. The Israeli government and non-governmental advocacy organizations have invested millions – probably billions – on the assumption that the country and its citizens tell their own story best and those they want to convince need to be brought here.

It is the belief that underlies Birthright Israel, and it is the reason the government funds trips for opinion-makers, show business celebrities and sports stars on visits.

It is why American Jewish organizations from AIPAC, Jewish federations and J Street bring power brokers from Washington to tour the country and speak with the people, inviting them to witness and participate in the free, open and dynamic debates in Israeli society.

All these programs are predicated on the assumption what is happening on the ground is far more nuanced than the slogans shouted at rallies on American campuses or at organizational meetings.

While the new law impacts everyone – Jewish and non-Jewish – its effect on the new generation on the Israel-Diaspora relationship will be surely particularly profound.

Recognizing that many in their community have disputes with Israeli government policies, many mainstream American Jewish organizations have shifted their rhetoric from “Israel advocacy” to “Israel engagement” in an effort to bring those from across the ideological spectrum closer to the country.

A few years ago, at a session on “Israel Engagement” at a Jewish organization conference, I spoke about it with Akiva Tor, head of the bureau of world Jewish affairs at the Foreign Ministry.

He said that even when “engaging” isn’t always a harmonious and pleasant experience, he believed most Israelis preferred it over distance and alienation.

“It’s completely clear to us that that’s the meaning of the word ‘relationship.’ It’s not always easy.”

Now, for the first time, Israel is rejecting Diaspora Jews who are engaged, who have a relationship with Israel, who care about her fate so deeply they are trying to do something about it in the form of actively choosing not to support the settlements.

With this new law, the message to young Jews, and the rest of the world is no longer: “Come, see for yourself, let’s have a discussion – even an argument in which I try to change your views. We know it’s complicated, but let’s not end our relationship.”

Instead, it is: “Stay away. If you don’t agree with us, there is no place for you here.”

Israel’s Travel Ban: Knesset Bars Entry to Foreigners Who Call for Boycott of Israel or Settlements
Jonathan Lis
Haaretz Correspondent

The Knesset gave its final approval Monday evening to a bill that forbids granting entry visas or residency rights to foreign nationals who call for economic, cultural or academic boycotts of either Israel or the settlements.

The interior minister would be able to make exceptions to this rule if he deems it warranted in a particular case.

The bill, which was enacted into law after it passed its second and third readings, was backed by 46 lawmakers and opposed by 28.

Zionist Union this time imposed coalition discipline against the bill, after it gave its MKs freedom to vote as they choose during its first reading. The Knesset Interior and Environment Committee approved the final wording of the boycott bill, whose goal is to fight the international boycott, divestment and sanctions movement.

It says the entry ban will apply to any person “who knowingly issues a public call for boycotting Israel that, given the content of the call and the circumstances in which it was issued, has a reasonable possibility of leading to the imposition of a boycott – if the issuer was aware of this possibility.”

This definition was copied from a 2011 law that permitted civil lawsuits against BDS activists.

The ban would apply not just to people who call for boycotts against Israel, but also to those who call for boycotts of any Israeli institution or any “area under its control” – i.e., the settlements.

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The Justice Ministry urged the Interior Committee to make an exception for Palestinians with temporary residency in Israel, like those admitted under the family unification program, who spend several years as temporary residents before receiving permanent residency.

Exempting these Palestinians from the ban would make it easier for the law to withstand a court challenge, the ministry argued. But the committee rejected this idea.

One of the bill’s sponsors, MK Roy Folkman (Kulanu), said during the debate, “It’s possible to feel national pride and still believe in human rights. It’s possible to defend the name and honor of the State of Israel and there’s no shame in that. This law represents Kulanu as a nationalist socially oriented party that believes in a balance between national pride and human rights.”

Another sponsor, MK Betzalel Smotrich (Habayit Hayehudi), said, “What does this law say, after all? A healthy person who loves those who love him and hates those who hate him doesn’t turn the other cheek.”

The leader of the Joint List, MK Ayman Odeh, strongly criticized the legislation, telling the Knesset of his recent trip to the J Street Conference in the U.S.: « I was in the U.S. two weeks ago, I saw there thousands of Jews who support a boycott of the settlements. These are people who act not against the state but against the occupation.

« I’m against the occupation and for a boycott of the settlements that are a war crime and the theft of land from private individuals. The occupation will end up making Israel a leper everywhere. »

MK Dov Khenin (Joint Arab List) said, “Who today doesn’t oppose a boycott of the settlements? Look at the UN, at the EU, at what’s happening in the international community. Do you want to boycott all of them and refuse them entry to Israel? The whole world thinks the settlements are illegal. You are essentially promoting a move that will strengthen the boycott of Israel.”

MK Tamar Zandberg (Meretz) added, “We’re talking about a law that is against freedom of expression, that constitutes political censorship and is meant to silence people. It’s ostensibly against the boycotters of Israel but it doesn’t make a distinction between Israel and the settlements and it thus serves the BDS movement.”

Jewish Voice for Peace Executive Director Rebecca Vilkomerson responded to the ban saying that « On the same day as the Trump administration signed the second version of an unconstitutional and discriminatory executive order barring visitors from specific Muslim countries, Israel just passed its own discriminatory travel ban barring supporters of nonviolent tactics to end Israel’s violations of Palestinian rights.

« My grandparents are buried in Israel, my husband and kids are citizens, and I lived there for three years, but this bill would bar me from visiting because of my work in support of Palestinian rights. I’m very proud to support the BDS movement, and hope that the response to this ban will hasten the day when anyone can travel there freely. »

Peace Now said the ban is « neither Jewish nor democratic » and « a clear violation of freedom of expression. Through this law the Bennetyahu government will not prevent boycott but rather, deteriorate Israel’s international standing and lead Israel towards international isolation. »

Adalah and the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) said « the law violates basic democratic rules in that it sets a political position as a reason to prevent foreigners from entering Israel and occupied territory. Those who wish to visit certainly do not have to toe the current Israeli government’s position on the issue of occupation.

« The law’s damage is expected to be particularly great for tens of thousands of Palestinian families where a member is either a temporary resident or holds only a temporary entrance permit and will now be exposed to having these rights lifted for the expression of a political view. »

Adalah and ACRI had appealed to Knesset members ahead of the law’s approval, writing that « the interior minister is not entitled to act like a commissar standing at the gate and deciding for the citizenry and residents of occupied territory who depend on Israeli checkpoints, which viewpoints are entitled to be heard.

« Freedom of speech is not only about the right to speak, but also the right to be exposed to opinions, even opinions that outrage or anger the majority in Israel. »

Israel’s Travel Ban: How Banning Settlement Boycotters Is Driving Me Into the Arms of BDS
Mira Sucharov
Haaretz contributor

Now that Israel has passed a law barring entry to those calling for a boycott of even settlement products, I’m wondering if I should throw my weight behind full-fledged BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions) after all. Driving me into the arms of BDS is probably not what the bill’s drafters had in mind, but ill-conceived legislation often has unintended consequences.

In 2012, I wrote in Haaretz that “boycotting the settlements might allow those of us who oppose the occupation a new and more finely-honed expression of our Jewish identity.” It’s an argument I repeated here six months later.

And last fall I joined over 300 others in signing a call for a settlement boycott sponsored by Partners for Progressive Israel. Curiously, the most vocal opposition I heard about that petition wasn’t from Israel advocates but from BDS supporters.

In a letter to the New York Review of Books, where the original petition had appeared, 100 BDS activists, including Alice Walker and Roger Waters, criticized the call.

“Defying common sense,” they wrote, “the statement calls for boycotting settlements while letting Israel, the state that has illegally built and maintained those settlements for decades, off the hook.”

There are legitimate political and policy reasons to favor a settlement-only boycott rather than full BDS. It reignites debate about the Green Line and thus reminds audiences of the importance of a two-state solution.

It casts the occupation as illegitimate. In short, for some, settlement boycott has been the classic expression of liberal Zionism, leading Peter Beinart to call a settlement boycott a form of “Zionist BDS” when he first laid out his vision for that sort of move.

And there are decent principled reasons to oppose full-blown BDS — partly because it could curtail the important person-to-person work needed to change Israeli hearts and minds, and partly because there are some components of the BDS call, namely the academic boycott, that pose a challenge to other crucial principles, namely academic freedom.

But as the prospects for a two-state solution rapidly dim, and as liberal Zionism’s promise loses its lustre with every move to more deeply entrench the occupation, and if those of us who wanted to maintain our ties to the sort of person-to-person work we thought crucial no longer have access to it because we’ll be barred anyway, the call to BDS seems more justified.

And if one decides to embrace the claim that the academic boycott is intended to target institutions not individuals (a claim I still don’t fully buy, but could be prodded towards as I have recently found myself landing somewhere in the middle of that debate), and if the idea of a Jewish State now seems more and more problematic in light of Israel’s straining democracy and the measures it takes to exclude, and if the idea of calling for refugee return doesn’t feel as jarring to our cultural sensibilities as it once might have, it might be time for a more full-throated call for justice using all the non-violent tools available.

When it comes to BDS, I realize that I have been painstakingly dancing around it and carefully keeping it at arms length partly to remain in the good (enough) books of Israeli customs agents at Ben Gurion Airport.

Maintaining access to Israel has shadowed my every activist move. There have been petitions I have not signed out of fear of being denied entry. But now that the Knesset has made no distinction between selective boycotts and full-blown BDS, maybe there’s no reason for the rest of us to either.

I am picturing what I will feel like if I am indeed denied entry on my next visit, as I insist that my interrogation is conducted in Hebrew — my favorite language on earth to speak. I will probably feel a mixture of anger, frustration and shame. I will feel great disappointment that I cannot visit the people — family and friends — and places — urban and pastoral — that I love.

I will probably wish I had sought citizenship during one of the three years I lived in the country while I was in my twenties. I will probably feel a sense of cognitive dissonance that the country to which I remain attached and yet so resentful for its early blindness over injustice and its continued slide to illiberalism has now used the same siege mentality I once studied and researched dispassionately — to bar me from its fortress walls. In short, I will feel bewildered, shaken and unmoored.

But I know that ultimately I have my own country that grants me freedom of expression, freedom of movement and freedom from state violence. That is immeasurably more than what Palestinians living under occupation have.

Mira Sucharov is associate professor of political science at Carleton University in Ottawa. Follow her on Twitter: @sucharov

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Par Allison Kaplan Sommer read more:, Haaretz du 08/03/2017
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