Denying Entry and Citizenship

In 1950, Israel enacted the Law of Return which enabled all Jews from around the world to move to Israel and quickly obtain citizenship. In that declaration, the law gave the state room to exclude certain kinds of individuals, specifically any Jew who:

“(1) is engaged in an activity directed against the Jewish people; or

(2) is likely to endanger public health or the security of the State.”

The threshold for deciding on granting citizenship was left to the Minister of Immigration. Presumably there were many people who were denied citizenship over the decades since the law was enacted.

The government of Israel does not limit its scrutiny of Jews who arrive in Israel to make aliyah to become citizens, but also deciding who should be granted entry to the country at all.

In January 2018, the Knesset decided to bar entry to members of 20 organizations that threaten the state through calls for BDS (Boycott, Divest and Sanction) of the Jewish State. Those organizations included:

From Europe

  • AFPS (France-Palestine Solidarity Association)
  • BDS France
  • BDS Italy
  • ECCP (The European Coordination of Committees and Associations for Palestine)
  • FOA (Friends of al-Aqsa)
  • IPSC (Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign)
  • Norge Palestinakomitee (The Palestine Committee of Norway)
  • Palestinagrupperna i Sverige (PGS-Palestine Solidarity Association of Sweden)
  • PSC (Palestine Solidarity Campaign)
  • War on Want
  • BDS Kampagne

From the United States

  • AFSC (American Friends Service Committee)
  • AMP (American Muslims for Palestine)
  • Code Pink
  • JVP (Jewish Voice for Peace)
  • NSJP (National Students for Justice in Palestine)
  • USCPR (U.S. Campaign for Palestinian Rights)

Other groups

  • BDS Chile
  • BDS South Africa
  • BDS National Committee

In July 2018, a prominent voice for Code Pink and BDS activist, Ariel Gold, was denied entry into Israel. After being denied entry, she said that she would entertain making aliyah to the country she was lobbying against. She was perhaps not aware of the caveat in the Law of Return that would prohibit her being granted citizenship.

Ariel Gold of Code Pink at the Western Wall in Jerusalem
The Strategic Affairs and Information Minister Gilad Erdan saidThe policy I have set is clear: anyone who acts consistently to boycott us will not enter the country. The rules have changed and the State of Israel will not hold back anymore against those who try to harm us.

Another BDS promoter from Netherlands was similarly denied entry in July 2018.

In August 2018, a leftist activist was detained at the Sinai border with Israel. She belonged to a group called Gisha which advocates for Gazans, but was not on the BDS list. She was eventually allowed entry after a few hours of questioning.

The trend of denying people entry to a country because of the perception that they will foment hatred or violence is occurring in several democracies.

The United Kingdom has barred several right-wing journalists. Since 2009, the UK has prohibited the conservative talk show host Michael Savage from entering the country. In March 2018, the UK denied entry to Canadian right-wing journalist Lauren Southern, and some other YouTubers from Austria. Both Savage and Southern were denied entry because of their comments about Islam. The UK stated “Border Force has the power to refuse entry to an individual if it is considered that his or her presence in the UK is not conducive to the public good.” The UK phrase of “public good” seems to have a much lower threshold than Israel’s “harm.”

Under the Obama administration, the United States prevented journalists from entering the country with little information as to the reason. The U.S. Customs and Border Patrol denied Canadian journalist Ed Ou entry in 2016. The CBP said that it examined Ou’s files and phones because “keeping America safe and enforcing our nation’s laws in an increasingly digital world depends on our ability to lawfully examine all materials entering the U.S.” Under the Trump administration, several journalists have been denied visas to enter the country, including Afrah Nasser from Yemen, as her country was on a travel ban.

Many countries – including the U.S.A., the United Kingdom and Israel – deny both citizenship and visitation rights to people who are deemed to be not conducive to the public good / promoters of harm. Activists and journalists from both the right-wing and left-wing have been caught in these nets for decades. But one can be sure that American and British Jews have only called out Israel for such activity, while remaining silent on activities executed by their own governments.


Related First.One.Through articles:

J Street: Going Bigger and Bolder than BDS

Unity – not Uniformity – in the Pro-Israel Tent

Students for Justice in Palestine’s Dick Pics

Journalists in the Middle East

The United Nations’ Incitement to Violence

Subscribe YouTube channel: FirstOneThrough

Join Facebook group: FirstOne Through Israel Analysis

Advertisements

The Basic Law’s “Unique” Problem

After Israel announced its 2018 Basic Law of the Nation State of the Jewish People, many people became incensed. Some were the usual suspects who hate anything that Israel does such as the President of Turkey, Recep Erdogan. Others were parties that say they are pro-Israel while they attack the State, like the left-wing group J Street, which declared on its website that it was “a sad day for Israel and all who care about its democracy and its future.” Other left-wing groups and non-Orthodox rabbis made similar comments.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu did not care much about the complaints from these left-wing groups and non-Orthodox rabbis. It was a somewhat surprising reaction to chose to ignore them considering that one of the points in the 2018 Nation-State Law stated clearly that Israel was the nation state of all Jews, including the left-wing Jews that despise his administration.

However, Netanyahu did become upset when he learned that the Law upset the Druze minority that account for roughly 1.7% of Israeli citizens. The Druze have always been loyal Israeli patriots and are found in every aspect of Israeli society. When Netanyahu learned of the Druze protest, he announced that he would review the language of the law.


Druze protest in Tel Aviv, August 2018

Much of the Basic Law did not break new ground. For example, the national symbols of Israel have always been Jewish symbols. Jerusalem has always been the nation’s capital, and was already so noted in a Basic Law in 1980.

So why did the Druze protest? Why have so many non-Orthodox Jewish rabbis denounced the declaration?

The major reason for the controversy surrounds clause 1c, and the use of the word “unique.”

“The right to exercise national self-determination in the State of Israel is unique to the Jewish people.”

The other statements the law’s items 1a and 1b were simply factual statements for anyone that understands Israel and history. International law in 1920 (San Remo Conference Declaration) and 1922 (Mandate of Palestine) underscored that the land of Israel is the historical homeland of the Jewish people, and it is there that the Jewish people fulfill their “natural, cultural, religious and historical right to self-determination.

Item 1c went a step further, declaring that ONLY Jews had the right to national self-determination.

Those in favor of the law saw nothing exceptional about the clause. There was no threat to the nation’s democratic ideals as every citizen – Jew and non-Jew – still had an individual rights to self-determination and full protection under the country’s laws.

However, the Druze and non-Orthodox Jewish community saw things very differently.

The Druze Community

The Druze community came about in the 11th century as an offshoot to Islam. Most of the Druze view themselves as predominantly connected to other Druze, while still remaining loyal to the country in which they reside. The majority live in Syria and Lebanon, with roughly 15% living in northern Israel. Today, the Druze number roughly 1 million people in total.

Like the Kurds, the Druze never had an independent country, and the global powers did not carve out a space for them when the Ottoman Empire collapsed at the end of World War I. Unlike the Arabs in Palestine, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Egypt and Iraq, they did not seek to destroy the Jewish State at its founding in 1948.

The Israeli Druze view themselves as completely part of the Israel. Roughly 60% of Druze have served or are serving in the Israeli military, just slightly less than the 75% of Israeli men that have served or are serving. That compares to fewer than 1% of Israeli Arabs who serve in the Israeli army.

The Druze’s proud participation in Israeli society is drastically different than Israeli Arabs. They have no qualms in calling themselves “Israeli Druze,” in sharp contrast to many Israeli Arabs that prefer to call themselves “Palestinian citizens of Israel,” leading with their allegiance to a combatant entity that has warred against the Jewish State since its inception.

For many Druze, the Nation-State Basic Law made them question the nature of patriotism: was it a one way street? Several Druze army officers resigned in protest.

Non-Orthodox rabbis and Left-Wing Groups

For the non-Orthodox rabbis in the United States, the issue was philosophical. Their approach to Judaism and Israel is about universalism and not particularism as detailed in this article. As such, the word “unique” produced a knee-jerk protest.

Left-wing groups (which have more than a few non-Orthodox rabbis in leadership positions) claim their own version of universalism: a world in which everyone and everything is the same. That means no special rights or preferences for anyone that is in the majority or position of power, especially if they are white men. Any move to create rights and protections issued by such powerful white men on behalf of the majority must be inherently bigoted and racist.

Most fundamentally, the Basic Law calling for a “unique” right for the Jewish people in Israel undermines the far left’s two-state solution of 1.5  states for Arabs and 0.5 state for Jews, instead promoting a single state for Jews and a single state for Arabs.

Next Steps

As Netanyahu considers making alterations to the law, he might be able to satisfy both the Druze community and left-wing groups by dropping the word “unique” in statement 1c, but that would make it redundant with clause 1b.

However Netanyahu must know that the Druze have never fought for an independent state and never had one, let alone in northern Israel.

Netanyahu certainly realizes that the Druze did not protest the 1950 Law of Return which only granted Jews an expedited pathway to citizenship.

Israeli leaders can see that the Syrian Druze are loyal citizens to the Syria Arab Republic which has stated in its constitution that it opposes the very existence of Israel and is only an Islamic state. Did Druze loyalty in Syria collapse because of its warring stance and its view of religious hegemony? Not at all.

The handful of protests by Israeli Druze are sparked by the knowledge that the Jewish left and European funded-NGOs will embrace its cause and fight side-by-side in the streets. In Syria, disloyalty is addressed with expulsion and extinction. But in the Jewish State there is a left-wing army that is willing to join their protests in a manner that never existed in 1920, 1948, 1950, 1967 or 1980. The far left-wing will now combat the Israeli government in the streets of Israel, throughout the parliaments of Europe and in the halls of the United Nations.

Perhaps Netanyahu could replace clause 1c with a declaration that Judaism is the official religion of the State of Israel, just as many other democracies have official national religions. It would be interesting to see if the Basic Law opponents would be more comfortable with such declaration.


Related First.One.Through articles:

Deciphering the 2018 Basic Law in Israel – The Nation State of the Jewish People

Israel’s Nation-State Basic Law is Not Based on Religion

Israel’s Colonial Neighbors from Arabia

The United Nations and Holy Sites in the Holy Land

Oh Abdullah, Jordan is Not So Special

Subscribe YouTube channel: FirstOneThrough

Join Facebook group: FirstOne Through  Israel Analysis

Israel’s Nation-State Basic Law is Not Based on Religion

There are a few democratic countries that do not have formalized constitutions such as the United Kingdom, New Zealand and the State of Israel. These governments occasionally issue broad laws to outline the basic principles of government. Israel did just that in July 2018.

Israel’s 2018 Basic Law of the Nation-State of the Jewish People was interesting for what it omitted as much as for what it included.

The focus of the law was about the connection between the nation, the land and the people. Specifically, the law outlined the connection between the modern state of Israel, the Jewish people and the Jewish Holy Land.

But the law clearly omitted the religion of the Jews, Judaism.

The law had no preamble about the God of Judaism’s forefathers of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the way that Ireland begins its constitution about Jesus and the Trinity.

The law did not declare Judaism as the State of Israel’s official religion, nor did it declare that there was an official “church” or head rabbi in the country. Such laws are found in several democracies such as for Roman Catholicism in Costa Rica and for the Eastern Orthodox Church in Greece.

Israel’s Basic Law did not declare that the leader of the country needed to belong to the official government church. Such a law can be found in Denmark’s constitution regarding the Evangelical Lutheran Church.

The law did not mandate that Judaism must be taught in school, a law that is found about Catholicism in Malta.

The law did not even state that Israel’s laws are based on Jewish values and inspired by the Jewish prophets as was stated in the country’s Declaration of Independence. Such a statement about Christianity features prominently in the constitution of Norway. Panama’a constitution mentions “Christian morality,” while Peru’s constitution calls out the “Catholic Church as an important element in the historical, cultural, and moral formation” of the country.

As a matter of fact, the Basic Law seemed to go to pains to not even refer to religion.

The law refrained from using the words “God,” “Judaism,” “Holy Land,” “sacred,” or “religion” anywhere in the text. While the law declared the “Hatikvah” as the national anthem, that anthem similarly avoids using any religious language. That’s in sharp contrast to 34 democracies that use “God” or “Lord” in their anthems including Canada, Italy and Switzerland, and others that specifically refer to Christianity such as in the Netherlands and Romania .

The 2018 Basic Law simply detailed that the Jewish people were connected to the land of Israel because of history. Yet in doing so, the law opted to not also underscore the deep religious and unique connection that Jews have for all of the land of Israel, and particularly for Judaism’s holiest city of Jerusalem.


Seal of King Hezekiah found at the southern Temple Mount in Jerusalem
who reigned c.715 – 686 BCE

The emphasis of Israel’s 2018 Basic Law related to the essence of Jews are a people, not adherents to a religion. International law in 1920 recognized “the historical connexion of the Jewish people with Palestine and to the grounds for reconstituting their national home in that country.” In 2018, Israel took that same step of laying out the long and deep connection between the Jewish people to the land of Israel, realized in the modern state of Israel.


Tel Dan Stele from c.840 BCE found in southern Syria referring to the “House of David”

Jews are the modern Israelites that had kingdoms in Canaan, Israel and Judah. Israel’s 2018 Basic Law affirmed that historical connection between the people and the land, and laid out the initial markings which characterize the reincarnation of the indigenous people in the modern State of Israel.

It is remarkable that Israel chose not to define itself by religion when so many democracies do so.


Related First.One.Through articles:

A Response to Rashid Khalidi’s Distortions on the Balfour Declaration

750 Years of Continuous Jewish Jerusalem

Abbas’s Speech and the Window into Antisemitism and Anti-Zionism

From the Balfour Declaration to the San Remo Conference

In Defense of Foundation Principles

Squeezing Zionism

The UN’s Disinterest in Jewish Rights at Jewish Holy Places

Gimme that Old-Time Religion

Related First.One.Through videos:

Religious Democracies (music by Bob Marley)

God is a Zionist (music by Joan Osborne)

Subscribe YouTube channel: FirstOneThrough

Join Facebook group: FirstOne Through  Israel Analysis