The recent harassment of left-wing American Jews by the Shin Bet is a sign that their privilege may no longer be enough to protect them.
American Jews have good reason to be afraid. Recent interrogations, harassment, and deportation of left-wing Jewish American activists over their political beliefs and activities have ushered in a new political moment in the relationship between Israel and diaspora Jewish communities.
No longer is Jewish identity enough to protect American activists from the reach of the Shin Bet, Israel’s internal security agency. Jewish privilege is no longer enough to guarantee entry into the Jewish state should one’s ideology or political views contradict those of the Israeli government.
When Simone Zimmerman and Abby Kirschbaum were detained and interrogated on their way back from a weekend in Sinai, the Shin Bet and border authority interrogators were almost exclusively interested in why the two wanted to work with Palestinians. They wanted to know about their politics.
A week earlier, when Israeli-American author Moriel Zecher-Rothman was held by the Shin Bet at the airport, an agent warned him against going down a “slippery slope” of anti-occupation activism and demanded he provide intelligence on fellow left-wing activists.
Ariel Gold, who held a student visa to study in Jerusalem, was detained and deported for her political affiliations. Meyer Koplow, a prominent Jewish philanthropist, was questioned by security officials at the airport about a Palestinian tourist pamphlet and specifically asked what he would tell his community back home about what he saw in the West Bank.
The trend these interrogations, deportations, and harassment point to cannot be divorced from the wider context of Israel’s clampdown on internal and external dissent through a fusillade of dangerously anti-democratic laws. One turning point was the BDS entry law, passed last year, which blocks foreign BDS activists from entering Israel. The law was written in a way that even boycotting settlement goods counts as support for BDS, giving the Israeli government leeway for a maximalist interpretation and near-carte blanche for deportation of anyone who is outspoken about the occupation.
In an attempt to make order of the travel ban, Israeli officials later published a blacklist of groups that were banned from entering Israel, ostensibly over their support for BDS, although the list also included distinguished groups like the American Friends Service Committee. The blacklist has had an immediate effect on Jewish Americans,...Read More