OpinionU.S.-Israel Relations

The high price of the US-Israel visa agreement

Israel’s ability to deny entry to foreign pro-Palestinian activists may be weakened.

El Al Boeing 737-800. Credit: Pixabay.
El Al Boeing 737-800. Credit: Pixabay.
Benjamin Sipzner
Benjamin Sipzner
Benjamin Sipzner is the director of international operations at Ad Kan and an adviser to the Israeli minister of Aliyah.

In a joint project that Israel’s Interior and Foreign Ministries have been pursuing for many years, Israel and the United States have formally announced an agreement that will allow Israeli citizens to fly to the United States without going through the long and difficult process of obtaining a visa. Many Israelis are thrilled that they will soon be able to fly with relative ease to the U.S. But Israel might pay a heavy price for this privilege.

As part of the agreement, Israel and the U.S. will allow their respective citizens to travel to the other country with almost no limitations. State Department Spokesman Matthew Miller said Wednesday, “Israel will announce changes to their policies to ensure equal treatment to all U.S. citizen travelers without regard to national origin, religion or ethnicity.”

If this is correct, it will constitute a major change in Israeli policy.

In March 2017, the Knesset passed a law that denied entry to anyone acting against the State of Israel. According to the law, Israel’s Border Authority may refuse entry to any foreign citizen if there is reason to suspect that the foreigner poses a security risk or is a supporter of the BDS movement.

Under this law, notable anti-Israel figures whose entry was delayed or blocked have included Peter Beinart, Noam Chomsky, Mairead Maguire, Simone Zimmerman, Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) and others. Additionally, the Interior Ministry maintains a “blacklist” of organizations whose members are barred from entering the country.

According to statistics released by the Israeli Interior Ministry, the reasons for denying entry to citizens from Western countries where pro-BDS activism is widespread are different from the standards applied in regard to other countries. Since the 2017 law was passed, the percentage of applicants denied entry from the U.S. and Europe due to security issues or support for BDS has been more than 20% higher than the average of other countries.

Israeli security officials have warned of “previously-unknown problematic clauses in the [visa] deal that could post a security threat to Israel, specifically the possible entry of hostile elements into Israel,” according to a July 10 Haaretz article. The danger to Israel from BDS and incitement is real and tangible. Yet in order to make travel easier for Israeli citizens to the U.S., the risk is being overlooked.

Ad Kan is an Israeli organization that has infiltrated dozens of BDS groups in order to expose their tactics and illicit activities. During an undercover mission, one of Ad Kan’s agents infiltrated the International Solidarity Movement (ISM), a renowned pro- BDS organization that claims to act in the name of “Palestinian rights.”

Many ISM activists from the U.S. and Europe have been delayed or barred from entering Israel. However, ISM prepares its activists for Israeli questioning and takes steps to avoid suspicion. Many ISM activists manage to successfully enter the country.

In undercover footage, the head of ISM’s delegation in Hebron is seen discussing the reporting of a skirmish between Palestinians and the IDF. The ISM activist tells the undercover agent that the army and settlers threw rocks and used rubber bullets and tear gas.

The agent replies, “The Palestinians started by throwing rocks and we should report that.” The ISM activist says that the only thing people need to hear is that Israel is oppressing Palestinians, not what really happened. “I know the Palestinians also do bad stuff,” the activist admits, “but we cannot write the bad stuff they do.”

In another video, a key member of ISM’s Hebron contingent is recorded saying that she wants a bomb to blow up all Israelis—men, women and children, settlers and non-settlers alike.

ISM is only one of many organizations whose agenda is to control the media narrative and harm the State of Israel. Thus, there may be a high price to pay for the visa agreement with the U.S. Israel must be constantly vigilant and proactive against its enemies, and should not be hindered in these tasks, even with the best of intentions.

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
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