Bibi Blocks BDS Backers At Israel’s Borders

Mar 10 2017 / 7:34 pm
Protesters in Bethlehem burning a poster of Trump over his plan to move the US embassy to Jerusalem. (Photo: via Twitter)

By James M. Wall

On Monday, March 6, the Israeli Knesset passed a travel ban which strongly resembles a U.S. travel ban scheduled to go into effect the middle of next week.

The U.S. ban is a second effort by the Trump White House to ban travelers entering the U.S. from six predominantly Muslim nations, a white nationalist action which strongly resembles Israel’s travel ban against supporters of boycotts against Israel, Israeli settlements or Israeli institutions.

As Palestinians and Palestine supporters who have traveled to Palestine can testify, the new law will codify what unofficially has been operational for decades.

This new Israeli ban blocks travelers identified as supporters of BDS.

Specifically, the law states: “No entry or residency permit of any kind will be given to a person who is not a citizen of Israel or a permanent resident, if the person, the organization or body that he is active on behalf of, has called for a boycott of Israel in any public media or who committed to participate in such a boycott.”

When President Trump ordered “that entry to the U.S. be suspended for residents from six Muslim-majority countries and blocked refugees from around the world Monday, retooling the executive order that stoked chaos at airports and drew international condemnation and a rebuke in the courts”.

Trump removed Iraqis from the list of travelers who were temporarily banned, clarified that holders of visas and green cards can come to the U.S. and took other steps aimed at ensuring the order holds up in court.

Trump and Netanyahu are now partners in crime through the linkage of their respective nationalisms. Israel sells itself as an increasingly isolationist nation, at the same time it continues, unabated, an illegal and brutal occupation which produces its isolation.

Trump’s white nationalism, which was a big factor in his 2016 presidential election, links him to Netanyahu through their nationalisms soaked in religious exceptionalism.

The Forward reports that sponsors of Israel’s anti-boycott bill argue that calls to boycott Israel represent “a new front of war against Israel.” Knesset member Roy Folkman of the Kulanu party said, “we can defend the state of Israel’s name and dignity and it’s not an embarrassment.”

Michael Sfard, an Israeli human rights attorney, described the impact of the new law:

In theory, the law could target a huge swath of travelers – from outspoken activists who join West Bank protests, to foreign nationals including several European politicians like the British Jeremy Corbyn who have called for boycotting economic, academic and cultural institutions in Israel or the West Bank.

Cornel West is a long-time supporter of BDS. West said he would obviously be a target for this ban. In an interview with Ha’aretz, he said:

“BDS is not a homogenous movement. There are a lot of different voices, but it is the only non-violent response I can see to the very ugly occupation, and I would do exactly the same if there was a Palestinian occupation of Jews. It’s a moral issue, a spiritual issue”.

In his interview with Ha’aretz, West was asked if he would consider visiting Israel to speak about BDS and the occupation. In spite of his support for a boycott, West says he would have, before the ban. “I could not get in now. But I consider Israelis my brothers and sisters, whether they are Jewish or Arab, just as I consider Palestinians, who are wrestling with the Israeli occupation”.

Columnist Jonathan Cook writes from Nazareth:

Legislation passed by the Israeli parliament on Monday night will only intensify the exclusionary trend. The new law forbids entry to anyone who supports a boycott, even if it is only of the settlements. As one legislator pointed out, that means Israel may quickly find itself bound to refuse entry to all officials from the United Nations and Europe.

In a sign of the new direction, Israel denied a tourist visa last week to Human Rights Watch’s new director for Israel and Palestine, having earlier refused him a work permit. One of the most prominent human rights organisations in the world was dismissed as an outlet for “Palestinian propaganda”.

The growing spirit of resistance to Israel’s occupation, has gathered momentum. In June, 2015, almost two years ago, William Booth and Ruth Eglash wrote in the Washington Post:

Suddenly, again, Israel is seeing new threats everywhere. The latest come not from rockets, the Israelis say, but from students armed with petitions and Palestinians seeking sanctions against the Israeli soccer team.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his supporters here and in the United States are warning that Israel is unfairly beset on all sides, by old foes and new. Most worrisome of all, they say, are not armed militants but a campaign of “delegitimization” against the Jewish state.

Yesterday’s threat may have been a Hamas militant digging an attack tunnel across the Gaza Strip border.

Today’s threat, according to the Israeli government, appears to be a college student in Britain with a petition who supports the “boycott, divestment and sanctions” (BDS) movement against Israel for its treatment of Palestinians, who are approaching their 50th year of living under Israeli military occupation.

The nationalism that led to the Brexit election victory in the United Kingdom has strong right-wing allies in Europe.

In the 2016 German elections, a new party leader emerged with enough right-wing appeal to evoke Newsweek’s headline: The Trump of Germany:

In the dawn of the Trump era, one political party formerly on the fringes of German society has been glowing: the anti-immigrant, anti-EU Alternative für Deutschland (AfD).

Four days after Trump’s inauguration, I met AfD’s party leader, Frauke Petry, who represents the district of Saxony, at her office in Leipzig, where she compared Trump’s victory to Britain’s vote to leave the EU. .  .

While other prominent right-wing leaders, like Marine Le Pen of France’s National Front and Geert Wilders of the Dutch Freedom Party, have received more attention for their fiery brand of politics, the AfD’s Petry may, in some ways, be the most consequential of all the nativist European politicians.

Across the English Channel, Nigel Farage, an important right-wing figure in England’s split with the EU, shares with Trump and Gemany’s Frauke Petry an anti-immigrant stance.

Nigel Farage has his own ties to Stephen Bannon and Attorney General Jeff Sessions, two anti-immigrant players in the Trump Administration.

In her superb New York Times Magazine essay on February 28, 2017, Emily Bazelon describes the relationship of these two men and their connection to Nigel Farage.

She begins her narrative:

One night in September 2014, when he was chief executive of Breitbart News, Stephen Bannon hosted cocktails and dinner at the Washington townhouse where he lived, a mansion near the Supreme Court that he liked to call the Breitbart Embassy. Beneath elaborate chandeliers and flanked by gold drapes and stately oil paintings, Jeff Sessions, then a senator from Alabama, sat next to the guest of honor: Nigel Farage, the insurgent British politician, who first met Sessions two years earlier when Bannon introduced them.

Farage was building support for his right-wing party by complaining in the British press about “uncontrolled mass immigration.” Sessions, like other attendees, was celebrating the recent collapse in Congress of bipartisan immigration reform, which would have provided a path to citizenship for some undocumented people.

At the dinner, Sessions told a writer for Vice, Reid Cherlin, that Bannon’s site was instrumental in defeating the measure. Sessions read Breitbart almost every day, he explained, because it was “putting out cutting-edge information.”

For Bannon and Sessions, “immigration was a galvanizing issue, lying at the center of their apparent vision for reshaping the United States by tethering it to its European and Christian origins”.

That was October, 2014.

Stephen Bannon is now the influential policy adviser to Donald J. Trump. The President has installed Bannon in the inner circle of the National Security Council.

Jeff Sessions is the attorney general of the United States. The two of them, with their allies, have a “vision of the nation besieged”. That vision can advance the Bannon-Sessions justification for policies that will develop their “divisive nationalism”.

For one sample of the Sessions approach to governance, just this week, the AG issued this statement:

Attorney General Jeff Sessions “said on Thursday that he would advise President Trump to send newly captured terrorism suspects to the wartime prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, which he called ‘a very fine place,’ rather than to bring them to civilian court for prosecution by the Justice Department he now runs. ‘There’s plenty of space,’ Mr. Sessions said of the prison.

For Bannon, Sessions and their allies, “immigration was a galvanizing issue, lying at the center of their apparent vision for reshaping the United States by tethering it to its European and Christian origins”.

How does the Trump new anti-immigration order sound to those who do not dwell inside the Trump bubble?

The Senate Democratic leader, Chuck Schumer of New York, described the new order as a “watered-down ban” that was still “meanspirited and un-American.” 

Margaret Huang, the executive director of Amnesty International USA, said in a statement that the new order would “cause extreme fear and uncertainty for thousands of families by, once again, putting anti-Muslim hatred into policy.”

Also this week, the ties between the two governments now running Israel and the U.S., were strengthened even more when “the Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted on Thursday to approve the nomination of David Friedman, a vocal supporter of Israeli settlements and a longtime associate of U.S. President Donald Trump, as the next U.S. ambassador to Israel. Eleven Republican senators voted for Friedman, joined by Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) who broke ranks with fellow Democrats, all remaining nine of whom voted against the nomination”.

The vote of the full Senate on David Friedman is expected to reach the floor next week.

– James M. Wall is currently a Contributing Editor of The Christian Century magazine, based in Chicago, Illinois. From 1972 through 1999, he was editor and publisher of the Christian Century magazine. Jim launched this new personal blog in 2008. If you would like to receive Wall Writings alerts when new postings are added to this site, send a note, saying, Please Add Me, to jameswall8@gmail.com.

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