Israel’s New Travel Ban Tells the World to Stay Away


The new anti-BDS law marks a drastic shift in Israel’s relationship with the outside world by sending the message that many of those who deeply object to the occupation are no longer welcome to visit.

By Allison Kaplan Sommer / Haaretz
March 7, 2017

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, [the message] is: “Stay away. If you don’t agree with us, there is no place for you here.”

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.”

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