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Blacklists and travel bans aren’t new in Israel — the targets are

Palestinian activists and others have long faced actual travel bans, blacklists, and political persecution. Nevertheless, that some of the same methods are now being used against Israeli and American Jews is a worrying sign.

Palestinian men wait for their documents and belongings to be inspected by the Israeli army at a checkpoint outside the West Bank city of Bethlehem, March 19, 2017. (Anne Paq/

Palestinian men wait for their documents and belongings to be inspected by the Israeli army at a checkpoint outside the West Bank city of Bethlehem, March 19, 2017. (Anne Paq/

One of the Israeli government’s senior-most ministers said last year that Israeli BDS advocates must be made to pay a price for their political activism. A series of developments over the past month or so seems to demonstrate that he was completely serious, and that efforts to target nonviolent political dissidents are escalating to worrying levels.

First came the law banning entry into Israel of people who have made public calls for boycotts of Israel or its settlements. The law also bars entry for anyone who has even pledged to participate in such a boycott, which could easily be interpreted to include merely signing an online petition against buying settlement products.

Then, a few weeks ago, police detained a prominent Jewish-Israeli activist for allegedly “possessing BDS materials,” whatever that means. The official reason was suspicion of incitement. He was released after a short while — because possessing BDS materials is not a crime in Israel — but the incident demonstrated how the new entry law sent a message to regular Israelis: BDS is dangerous — something one might reasonably report to police.

This week, the same government minister who said BDS activists should “pay a price” for their political activism, Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan, proposed an official blacklist of individuals and entities that “willfully, consistently and methodically called publicly for a boycott of Israel [or its settlements],” according to a report in Haaretz.

Along with other policies and propaganda targeting Israeli human rights groups and anti-occupation activists, the government has made clear that there is no legitimate space for dissent in Israel these days. Human rights groups are painted as hostile foreign agents, foreigners who boycott settlements are forbidden from entering the country, and intelligence resources are even being directed to surveil and smear opponents of Israeli policy vis-à-vis the Palestinians.

The recent developments are only new, however, in as much as they are now targeting people whose ethnic and religious privilege once granted them relative immunity. Israel has for decades put actual travel bans on Palestinians engaged in international advocacy challenging the occupation, barring them from leaving Israel or the occupied Palestinian territories.

For seven years, Israel barred Shawan Jabarin, head of one of Palestine’s most prominent human rights organizations, from leaving the West Bank to speak about Israeli rights abuses.

This week, after months of empty threats by Israeli officials to revoke the residency of Omar Barghouti, co-founder of the Palestinian BDS movement, Israeli police detained and interrogated the boycott advocate for several days on suspicion of tax evasion, once again barring him from leaving the country.

Those are actual travel bans.

An employee of the ‘Palestine Today’ television station sorts through what remained after the Israeli army raided its offices, seized its equipment, and arrested its manager over allegations of ‘incitement,’ March 11, 2016. (Flash90)

An employee of the ‘Palestine Today’ television station sorts through what remained after the Israeli army raided its offices, seized its equipment, and arrested its manager over allegations of ‘incitement,’ March 11, 2016. (Flash90)

Over the years Israeli military and civilian authorities have shut down countless Palestinian media outlets on both sides of the Green Line. Political movements and human rights groups have been declared illegal associations. Poets and journalists have been arrested and jailed under the catch-all, often-frivolous accusation of incitement — often without any charge at all. Organizers are arrested and thrown into military prison for nonviolent political protest, which is a crime for the millions of Palestinians living under Israeli military rule. Dozens of elected members of Palestine’s parliament have been jailed by Israel. Palestinian politicians serving in Israel’s own Knesset have been persecuted, accused of treason and incitement, forced into exile, and face regular attempts at disqualifying them from running for elected office.

The list of methods and instances of Israel suppressing dissent among the various Palestinian populations under its control goes on and on. Some are new, but most date back to the early years of the state when Israel held large swaths of its Arab population, Israeli citizens, under military rule.

The new part of what is happening today is not that Israeli authorities are suppressing dissent among those it perceives as a threat to its 50-year undemocratic military rule over millions of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. What’s new is that the group of people the state perceives as a threat to that reality has grown to include a small but significant number of American and Israeli Jews.

Several pro-Israel groups have promoted a strategy in recent years of trying to drive a wedge between so-called “soft critics” of Israel, whose criticism is focused mostly on the settlements and occupation, and those active in the BDS movement. With laws now barring foreign critics from even entering the country and blacklists of citizens who advocate BDS, however, the Israeli government is sending a terrifying message: Israel and its 50-year occupation have become so inextricable that opposing one threatens the other. Just remember, Palestinians have been on the receiving end of that message for decades.

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    1. Firentis

      If you hate Israel you are not going to be allowed into the country to agitate against it. If you incite people to kill your fellow Israeli citizens you will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. If you collaborate with Israel’s enemies you will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. If you are actively working to destroy the country you live in you should expect that the country will defend itself.

      Go cry me a river.

      I am still waiting for the law that will stop foreign government funding of anti-Israel propaganda organizations like 972mag and its fellow travelers.

      Reply to Comment
      • Bruce Gould

        Ahh do declare, ending slavery would destroy the south, it would be the end of owah suthern way of life, and ahh will fight to mah last breath to preserve the dear, dear fields of cotton and the separation of the races which has protected owah lovely young ladies from the crude remarks and lustfull looks of the darker races.

        Reply to Comment
        • R5

          @Bruce Gould: You’re doing it wrong – trivializing slavery is no good, but trivializing the Shoah is just fine. Gotta get better at your SJW dogma.

          Reply to Comment
        • i_like_ike52

          I suggest you direct you comments to the Arabs of the Middle East whose whole society defines one’s status and rights by clan, race and religion. That is why in many Arab countries, people of AFrican origin are called ‘abd which means “slave”. That is why Israel is really the only state in the Middle East that is NOT an “apartheid” state.
          Look at Lebanon, for instance. This was once considered one of the more liberal Arab states, yet the government and parliament are completely partitioned along clan and religious lines, i.e. The President must be a Maronite Christian, the Prime Minister a Sunni Muslim, the Speaker of Parliament a Shi’ite and the seats of the Parliament are portioned out according one’s religion and clan.
          Same with your Palestinian friends. Their constitution defines the country as “Arab” and has Islam as the state religion. This automatically discriminates against non-Arabs and non-Muslims. In addition, there is real apartheid in that the refugees within their territory are treated much worse than the settled population.
          If a “progressive” really wants to help the human rights situation, the place to start is in the Arab countries. Once they liberalize and democratize, then peace with Israel will be much easier to achieve. But first, of course, they have to stop slaughtering one another.

          Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            “Once they liberalize and democratize, then peace with Israel will be much easier to achieve.”

            You cannot possibly expect us to believe that this is anything but your latest version of “Oh, why don’t you come back in 50 more years while we ‘manage the conflict’ and gobble the West Bank apace and deprive millions of human rights. Don’t call us, we’ll call you. We’re busy…”

            Reply to Comment
          • Frank John

            @I like it
            Take a look at you last paragraph. You have described Israel to a “T.” So do you still consider yourself a democracy? Sounds exactly like an apartheid state to me.

            Reply to Comment
    2. Itshak Gordin Halevy

      Why did the Israeli government wait so long to react? All the enemies of the Jewish State must pay the price even if they are Jewish.

      Reply to Comment