The usual suspects are all up in arms about the “undemocratic, McCarthyite blacklist” that Israel has imposed on activists in certain pro-BDS organizations, like the particularly vile “Jewish Voice for Peace” (JVP). Here is an almost-honest description of the goals of the BDS movement that JVP supports, from its Executive Director, Rebecca Vilkomerson:
BDS is a call from Palestinian civil society to build a global movement to pressure Israel to end the occupation, offer full equal rights to Palestinian citizens of Israel, and allow Palestinian refugees the right to return. The BDS movement is inspired by the tradition of nonviolent resistance to oppression, and draws on the example of the movement to divest from South African apartheid and other examples of targeted economic and cultural pressure to achieve justice.
Vilkomerson, who is terribly pained by the fact that she will not be permitted to visit relatives in Israel, pretends that allowing millions of “refugees” who are not refugees to “return” to a place they have never lived means something other than replacing the Jewish state of Israel with yet another Arab state. It doesn’t, and it would achieve neither justice nor peace. An influx of hostile Arabs, who have been raised and indoctrinated from birth to be an army to kill and disperse the Jews of Israel, would result in a bloody civil war at best, and a second Holocaust at worst. One wonders if Vilkomerson thinks about the fate of her Israeli relatives if her organization were to suceed. Probably they hold foreign passports, just in case.
It is also important to understand that “Palestinian civil society” is a shorthand for nongovernmental organizations primarily funded by virulently anti-Israel elements in European countries (and the US), including governments, church organizations and others, which simply want the embarrassingly successful Jewish state to disappear. Just as Arab Muslims don’t believe that Jews can be sovereign in an area that they regard as properly dar al islam, many Europeans take the position, going back to the dawn of Christianity, that the Jew ought not to be sovereign anywhere – and particularly not in the Holy Land or the Holy City, Jerusalem.
Let’s face it, they don’t give a damn about the rights of Palestinian Arabs. If it’s about rights, why are the Palestinians cared about so much more than the millions of other oppressed people, many of them Muslims and Arabs too? Where was the boycott and divestment movement against Bashar al-Assad? Where is it today when Iranians are in the streets demonstrating against a corrupt, tyrannical, misogynistic, homophobic regime which is also the biggest exporter of terrorism in the world?
The purpose of the movement is not to pressure Israel to grant anyone their rights, which “Palestinian citizens of Israel” already have, and which “Palestinian refugees” do not deserve. Israel is not hurt by the boycotts or divestments, which have very little real effect on her economy. Their true aim is to delegitimize Israel as a state, and to provide an excuse to demonize her with vicious propaganda in order to drain potential diplomatic and military support from her in her ongoing war for survival.
So just as Israel would be justified in keeping out terrorists who want to kill Jews, she is justified in refusing to admit Vilkomerson, who wishes to non-violently enable terrorists to kill Jews. Because this is precisely what the BDS movement is doing.
Jonathan Tobin would agree with most of what I’ve said, but he thinks that the blacklist of BDS groups is counterproductive:
While BDS is an annoyance to Israel, it has done little damage to the nation’s prosperous economy. … The real danger from BDS comes from the way anti-Israel groups operating on college campuses in the U.S. and elsewhere promote and practice anti-Semitism. They seek to not merely intimidate Jewish and other pro-Israel students from speaking out, but also to effectively make it difficult to openly live as Jews. …
Keeping people out of Israel simply for expressing an opinion, however odious it might be, is a mistake since the boost it gives them far outweighs the cost of any mischief they might get up to once in the country. Allowing BDS supporters to play the martyr also gives another excuse for newspapers like The New York Times to treat JVP like a legitimate organization rather than a group of Jews giving cover to anti-Semitic hatemongers. It also gives them an opportunity to falsely smear Israel as a tyrannical state rather than the pluralistic democracy that it is.
I get the point. But there is another point that I think Tobin misses. Just as allowing terrorist murderers to remain alive damages Israel’s honor and deterrence, allowing foreign agents into the country who are enemies of the state like Rebecca Vilkomerson has a similar effect. Leaving aside the damage from the provocations that she would doubtless commit – she might join Arab rioters like the Tamimis at Nabi Saleh, for example – her presence would broadcast that Israel was too weak to keep her out. It would serve as encouragement for others like her.
This is sometimes hard for liberals to understand, especially in the coastal suburbs of the US, where it’s generally believed that allowing every kind of expression short of violence is a sign of strength. But maybe they should look to both their inner cities and their flyover country, where cultures exist in which allowing yourself to be “dissed” is a sign of weakness and an invitation to violence. Sometimes strength may be in restraint, but sometimes it’s demonstrated by fighting back. This is certainly true in the Middle East we live in, where no country in its right mind would allow agitators like Vilkomerson past passport control.
The New York Times would argue that JVP is a legitimate organization regardless of what Israel does, but by barring it, at least Israel makes clear that she does not agree with the Times. And while Israel is (unfortunately, to my mind) too committed to free speech to bar its own subversives like Gideon Levy from spewing their vile lies and libels, it is not a sign of tyranny to keep foreign agitators outside.
It’s just good sense.