American Jewish visitor forced to sign loyalty oath in order to get tourist visa to Israel

Israel/Palestine
on 27 Comments

In an apparent escalation of Israel’s anti-BDS policy, an American Jew disclosed to Mondoweiss that in order to receive a valid visa they were forced to sign a loyalty oath to the state of Israel. 

Just a few weeks ago, the individual, who wishes to remain anonymous for fear of retribution, was summoned to the Interior Ministry’s office to finally receive a valid visa after months of waiting and after discreditation of a previously issued one.

But the ministry official forced the interfaith activist and educator, who self-describes an upbringing with a “typical northeast liberal Jewish education,” to write and sign a letter declaring allegiance to the state in order to receive a tourist visa. This individual had to then reapply for a work visa, which grants a longer term stay.

Handwritten on official Ministry of Interior Population Immigration and Border Authority stationery, the letter, as dictated to the individual by an agent of the ministry reads:

“I declare that I will not do any activities against Israel, the army, and its institutions.”

Similar forms have been signed; supposed anti-occupation or pro-Palestinian individuals turned away at Israel’s borders; phones confiscated; emails read; and the just-how-Jewish-are-you game played before. Such tactics comprise the border authority’s arsenal.

But this scribbled, one-sentence and ostensibly unenforceable note written in English underneath the seal of the State of Israel was signed, under threat of deportation, by an American Jew who has never publicly supported BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions), worked for a Palestinian organization or committed any other such allegedly inexcusable offense.

This incident can likely be understood as implementation of a law passed by the Israeli Knesset a few months ago that empowers the interior minister to deny visas outright to BDS supporters. The law is theoretically based on the idea that the boycott movement is anti-semitic.

Two of the far-right MKs integral to the bill’s passage last March both cited this as reason for their support.

“We are talking about anti-semites here,” Knesset Interior Committee chairman David Amsalem told the Jerusalem Post, referring to BDS supporters.

While Knesset member Bezalel Smotrich said the legislation was a response to “a new anti-semitic front [that] has been initiated against Israel.”

Even though there is little evidence publicly or otherwise to indicate the individual even supports Palestinian rights, upon return to Israel from vacation this past summer, the border police explicitly said it was their job to figure out if the individual supports BDS.

The individual in question has been involved in peace and educational work for many years, both in the U.S. and Israel/Palestine, so when authorities found prior communication with Palestinians during the interrogation, this was reason enough to detain the activist.

“I’ve heard of people being denied and banned, but this is the first time I’ve heard of [forcing visa holders] to declare allegiance to the state,” the interfaith activist told Mondoweiss, then added, “It’s clear that my history of peace and interfaith work was used against me.”

Just a few months prior, the individual applied for and received a work visa from the Jewish Agency, following all the same steps one takes in order to make Aliyah — the process by which Jews from around the world apply for Israeli citizenship — while the state continues to displace and dispossess the native Palestinians.

After securing the 3-year temporary visa, which is intended for potential immigrants who want to live a trial run in Israel as it were, the individual was admitted into the country at Ben Gurion Airport without any problems.

The recent incident appears an example of the haphazard and increasingly fascistic leanings of the state.

“It just shows how far they’ve gone into the far right to profile and target people based on perceived politics,” the activist told Mondoweiss.

Obviously for Palestinians, Muslims or anyone with a slightly Arab name or features, the Israeli border is notoriously hostile; it has always been Israel’s de-facto policy to keep out or actively displace those fitting such identities.

But things get weird when the state actually starts closing itself to the particular Jewish identities it not only seeks out, but according to the state’s own ministers, desperately needs in order to maintain a demographic majority.

The so-called “demographic threat” has in the past few years become intensely concerning to Israelis and sparked debate about the ongoing military occupation of the West Bank where the moral question of occupation has failed to do so.

“Every moment we don’t separate from the Palestinians is a clear threat to the existence of Israel as a Jewish state,” former Finance Minister Yair Lapid said at the 2014 Intelligence and National Security Summit (INSS) in Tel Aviv.

Lapid was referring to the total number of Jewish Israelis relative to Palestinians and noting that the Jewish state ceases being Jewish when Jews are not in the majority.

Not to mention, if Palestinians surpass Israelis in sheer population, Israel will become a literal apartheid state; with a minority ruling over a majority population which lacks rights.

The Palestinian population living in Palestine or what is the occupied West Bank and Gaza in 2014 when Lapid made these comments was growing quickly at a rate of 2.4 percent per year, outpacing Israel’s rate of population growth by 33 percent.

Under these circumstances, Israel’s increasing denial of citizenship or visas to even the most Palestinian-supportive Jews is simply illogical by its own “demographic” rationale. It appears to be hastening its own, self-characterized demise with BDS paranoia.

Or put another way, BDS appears to be working.

Israel’s policy of denying entry on flimsy grounds is entrenched and well known. Israel has denied famous academics, politicians and artists entry at its borders; some foreign embassies issue warnings to their citizens about signing agreements under threat.   

Dr. Ariel Sophia Bardi, a freelance journalist currently based in South Asia, has been stopped at the border and interrogated before entry her past three visits to Israel. Also an American Jew, Bardi was detained at the border in 2013, 2014 and 2015. Israeli border authorities twice made Bardi sign a contract stating she would not visit the occupied West Bank.

“They present it as if either you buy a ticket and go home from here or the only chance you’re getting in is if you sign this,” Bardi told Mondoweiss.

Although Bardi is not a Zionist, her great aunt was a member of the Haganah — one of the Zionist guerrilla forces that founded the state in 1948 through violent conquest of Palestinian villages and cities. It has morphed into today’s Israel Defense Forces.

And her great grandfather was first cousin to David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s first Prime Minister and widely hailed as its founder.

“At the airport, when they interrogate me for hours,” Bardi said, she likes to point out her ancestry. “You realize the building we’re sitting in was named after my family member,” she usually tells her interrogators at Ben Gurion International Airport.

But since the BDS law passed and Israel has pinpointed the boycott movement as a major enemy, denial and even further increased scrutiny of its visitors is becoming commonplace.

“It does seem like [denial] has become more official, it’s become more open. Whereas before it was a whispered thing,” Bardi, who is at the moment unsure when or if she will try to visit Israel again, told Mondoweiss. “Now it’s a little more expected.”

“You have to subscribe to a very limited ideological viewpoint if you want to gain admittance into the country,” she continued. “The concept of Jewishness is getting more and more narrowly circumscribed around this very hostile, belligerent, ultra-nationalist Israeli state.”

“And there’s no room for alternate viewpoints. There’s no room for dissent…and they’ve made that very clear.”

About Jesse Rubin

Jesse Rubin is a freelance journalist from New York. Twitter: @JesseJDRubin

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27 Responses

  1. Ossinev
    November 29, 2017, 11:05 am

    “Are you now or have you ever been etc”. What`s Hebrew for McCarthyism ?

    • Eva Smagacz
      November 29, 2017, 7:47 pm

      Oh, according to reports their question is better than “Are you now or have you ever been etc”

      It goes: “Are you now or have you ever been, and do you promise never ever to be …..etc”

      57/64

  2. pabelmont
    November 29, 2017, 11:05 am

    These words alone:

    “I declare that I will not do any activities against Israel, the army, and its institutions.””

    do not seem to me to constitute a loyalty oath. There is no suggestion of “faithfulness” The words seem, rather, a promise of good behavior. If these words or any others could be shewn to be a loyalty oath to Israel, then we’d be right back with “dual loyalty” with a vengeance!

    But let’s read these words carefully.

    Please note that there is no place or time limitation here: the declarations appears to be a sort of promise for the indefinite future about behavior anywhere in the world (or elsewhere). Please note as well that the activities to be avoided are (as I read this) activities which would be simultaneously (“and”, not “or”)against (against? who decides? what is the promiser promising here?) Israel, the army (presumably the IDF army), and its (whose? the army’s? Israel’s?) institutions (are “settlements” institutions?). If an act might be “against” the settlements, for example, but not also “against” IDF, or vice versa, this promise might not forbid it. In my reading.

    Rather inartful, as I read it.

    • kev
      November 29, 2017, 12:55 pm

      I agree, pabelmont, it does not really read like a “loyalty oath” to me, but I still think that it is very problematic. No US citizen should be signing an unbounded testament to not “do any activities against” any foreign state, government, or entity without registering as a foreign agent with the US government. Although it is currently unlikely in the extreme, in the event that the US decides to try to put pressure on Israel, through whatever means, to try to force Israel to respect Palestinian human rights and political rights, this person has been coerced into not being able to comply with any demands by the US because they have acceded to coercion by a foreign power.

      This may have been a somewhat acceptable document to sign if it had been bounded by duration of stay in Israel, but as an agreement unbounded by both time and geographical boundaries, it is completely unacceptable and the person who accepted it should now register with the US as a foreign agent.

      • straightline
        November 30, 2017, 3:21 pm

        This is interesting in the context of the ongoing dual citizenship debate in Australia. Many Australian MPs are taken on trips to Israel (purely in the line of business of course). The relevant part of our constitution is Section 44(i):

        “Any person who – Is under any acknowledgment of allegiance, obedience, or adherence to a foreign power, or is a subject or a citizen or entitled to the rights or privileges of a subject or a citizen of a foreign power… shall be incapable of being chosen or of sitting as a senator or a member of the House of Representatives.”

        This has led to several members of parliament having to resign for being (sometimes unknown to them) citizens of the UK, New Zealand, Italy and elsewhere.

        It would be interesting to know how our High Court might interpret the signing of such a document . Does it constitute obedience to a foreign power? More broadly, anyone who has a right to citizenship of Israel (though not necessarily a citizen) presumably ought to have problems under this law, though no such case has been made public yet. There are several Jewish members of parliament some of whom -along with many non-Jewish members – are staunch supporters of Israel.

      • RoHa
        November 30, 2017, 4:58 pm

        As I pointed out here

        http://mondoweiss.net/2017/11/dodger-hotovely-semite/#comment-898443

        this could lead to us losing Mal. Whatever would we do without him?

      • straightline
        November 30, 2017, 11:38 pm

        Apologies for essentially repeating your earlier post, RoHa. I tend to agree with you but already there are hints that the Coalition might target Kim Carr for having an Israeli wife:

        http://middleeastrealitycheck.blogspot.com.au/2017/11/section-44-i-israels-law-of-return.html

        If war breaks out between the two parties on this, even the untouchables might be touched.

    • Marnie
      November 29, 2017, 12:55 pm

      It’s a paper pinkie swear.

  3. Paranam Kid
    November 29, 2017, 12:06 pm

    And as long as American Jews accept to sign off on this type of coercion & blackmail, the Zionist state will keep getting away with murder, literally.

    And how much longer will the epithet, i.e. the lie, of the “only democracy in the Middle East” be accepted ?

  4. catalan
    November 29, 2017, 12:09 pm

    In other news, every action has a reaction.

    • Mooser
      November 29, 2017, 2:04 pm

      “In other news, every action has a reaction”

      You got turfed out of the Unitarian-Universalists this quickly?

    • Annie Robbins
      November 29, 2017, 2:55 pm

      In other news, every action has a reaction.

      given the available text, what action do you think this anonymous person may have engaged in to cause this reaction.

      Even though there is little evidence publicly or otherwise to indicate the individual even supports Palestinian rights, upon return to Israel from vacation this past summer, the border police explicitly said it was their job to figure out if the individual supports BDS.

      The individual in question has been involved in peace and educational work for many years, both in the U.S. and Israel/Palestine, so when authorities found prior communication with Palestinians during the interrogation, this was reason enough to detain the activist.

      ……..“It’s clear that my history of peace and interfaith work was used against me.”

    • eljay
      November 30, 2017, 8:12 am

      || catalan: In other news, every action has a reaction. ||

      Apparently Zionists haven’t heard this news because they remain unwilling or unable to comprehend the on-going reactions to their supremacist state’s on-going actions of oppression, military occupation, colonialism, murder and sundry (war) criminality.

  5. Ossinev
    November 29, 2017, 1:05 pm

    “Obviously for Palestinians, Muslims or anyone with a slightly Arab name or features, the Israeli border is notoriously hostile; it has always been Israel’s de-facto policy to keep out or actively displace those fitting such identities”.

    Zioland is way way beyond stage 1 in the Nazification process.

    Coming soon perhaps a “law” banning any forms of social,educational,cultural and Yahweh forbid !! “assimilation” between Undermenschen and the pure Ziojudaic master race ?

    http://www.sahistory.org.za/article/human-rights-issues-during-and-after-world-war-ii-focus-nazi-germany-grade-12-0

  6. Mooser
    November 29, 2017, 2:07 pm

    “American Jewish visitor forced to sign loyalty oath in order to get tourist visa to Israel”

    Good. We need lots more of this. In fact, all visitors to Israel should be required to sign off on a checklist as supporting specific Israeli actions and policies before being allowed inside the gates.

  7. Robert
    November 29, 2017, 5:22 pm

    “if Palestinians surpass Israelis in sheer population, Israel will become a literal apartheid state”

    It is not necessary for Palestinians to exceed Jews for the situation to qualify as apartheid. The essence of apartheid is having a set of different laws to apply to different racial groups.

    Apartheid in the palestinian territories exists right now. There is also racial discrimination with 40 different racist laws in pre67 Israel.

    • Misterioso
      November 30, 2017, 11:24 am

      Apartheid thrives west of the Green Line:

      “Former Foreign Ministry director-general invokes South Africa comparisons. ‘Joint Israel-West Bank’ reality is an apartheid state”
      EXCERPT: “Similarities between the ‘original apartheid’ as it was practiced in South Africa and the situation in ISRAEL [my emphasis] and the West Bank today ‘scream to the heavens,’ added [Alon] Liel, who was Israel’s ambassador in Pretoria from 1992 to 1994. There can be little doubt that the suffering of Palestinians is not less intense than that of blacks during apartheid-era South Africa, he asserted.” (Times of Israel, February 21, 2013)

      Adi Ophir, professor of philosophy, Tel Aviv University: “…the adoption of the political forms of an ethnocentric and racist nation-state in general, are turning Israel into the most dangerous place in the world for the humanity and morality of the Jewish community, for the continuity of Jewish cultures and perhaps for Jewish existence itself.” (1998 issue of “Theory and Criticism,” published in Israel)

      Video: Israeli TV Host Implores Israelis: Wake Up and Smell the Apartheid
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QyyUvxHLYr4

      In its 2015 Country Report on Human Rights Practices for Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories, the U.S. Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor acknowledges the “institutional and societal discrimination against Arab citizens of Israel.” (U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor)

      “Construction, Not Destruction”
      “While Israeli Arabs constitute 20 percent of the population, Arab communities’ jurisdictions occupy just 2.5 percent of the state’s land area, and the process of approving new construction in Arab towns takes decades.” (Haaretz Editorial, April 4, 2017)

      One example of apartheid within Israel:
      “Jewish town won’t let Arab build home on his own land ”
      Excerpt: “Aadel Suad first came to the planning and construction committee of the Misgav Local Council in 1997. Suad, an educator, was seeking a construction permit to build a home on a plot of land he owns in the community of Mitzpeh Kamon. The reply he got, from a senior official on the committee, was a memorable one. ‘Don’t waste your time,’ he reportedly told Suad. ‘We’ll keep you waiting for 30 years.’” (Haaretz, 14 December 2009)

      Shlomo Gazit, retired IDF Major General: “[Israel’s] legal system that enforces the law in a discriminatory way on the basis of national identity, is actually maintaining an apartheid regime.” (Haaretz, July 19, 2011)

      Ronnie Kasrils, a key player in the struggle against the former South African apartheid regime, minister for intelligence and a devout Jew: “The Palestinian minority in Israel has for decades been denied basic equality in health, education, housing and land possession, solely because it is not Jewish. The fact that this minority is allowed to vote hardly redresses the rampant injustice in all other basic human rights. They are excluded from the very definition of the ‘Jewish state’, and have virtually no influence on the laws, or political, social and economic policies. Hence, their similarity to the black South Africans [under apartheid].” (The Guardian, 25 May 2005)

      To the best of my knowledge, Israel is the only country in the world that differentiates between citizenship and nationality, i.e., “Israeli” nationality does not exist, only Jews and non-Jews, and each citizen carries an appropriate identity card. While the implications of this absurdity for discrimination and racism against non-Jews are obvious, it has been upheld by Israel’s Supreme Court.

      The effect of Israel’s blatantly racist “Citizenship Law” and more than fifty other restrictions Arab citizens have to endure is well expressed by writer and Knesset member, Ahmed Tibi, “…dutifully defining the state [of Israel] as ‘Jewish and democratic,’ ignores the fact that in practice ‘democratic’ refers to Jews, and the Arabs are nothing more than citizens without citizenship.” (Ma’ariv, 1.6.2005)

  8. RoHa
    November 29, 2017, 6:33 pm

    This is a good start. I think every country should require all Americans to sign such oaths. That might reduce American interference with the rest of us.

  9. Mayhem
    November 29, 2017, 7:00 pm

    Every country does this. Undesirables who are primarily out to disrupt and dissension are considered unwelcome. Being “Jewish” is no free ticket to cause trouble.

    • Mooser
      November 29, 2017, 11:00 pm

      “Being “Jewish” is no free ticket to cause trouble.”

      That’s right Mayhem. You make sure to let Jews know it’s a privilege to come to Israel.

    • John O
      November 30, 2017, 11:41 am

      Rubbish. There’s only one country, of the 18 I have visited, that has asked me to fill in a form before entering. The USA.

    • Misterioso
      November 30, 2017, 3:52 pm

      @Mayhem

      For your much needed edification:

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rHPC8JeMJWA&feature=youtu.be

      Just released video – 4 minutes, 32 seconds .

      “Palestine 101: Not That Complicated”

      “Many people are held back from taking a stand on the issue of Palestine/Israel by the common misconception that it is ‘complicated.’ Here, we explain the steady continuation of the more than 100 year old settler colonial project that is Zionism. Palestine 101: Not That Complicated can help folks both familiar and unfamiliar with the issue understand the ongoing process of Israel’s ethnic cleansing of Palestine, and the legacy of Palestinian resistance to the colonization of their homeland.”

    • Emory Riddle
      December 1, 2017, 8:27 am

      “Every country does this.” Clearly not true. I have traveled to many countries and have never been asked to sign anything.

  10. JosephA
    November 29, 2017, 11:12 pm

    Inside the belly of the beast…

  11. Vera Gottlieb
    November 30, 2017, 9:30 am

    Nor would I sign anything nor would any amount of money entice me to go to israel.

  12. echinococcus
    November 30, 2017, 10:56 am

    “The concept of Jewishness is getting more and more narrowly circumscribed around this very hostile, belligerent, ultra-nationalist Israeli state.”

    I can’t agree with that reading. The Ziovomit is not questioning or redefining the concept of Jewishness. It is excluding individuals from what, by its own law, applies to all the subset of persons that it defines as “Jews” (by approximately the same genetic criteria as the Nazis.)

    This is proof definitive and incontrovertible that the State of the Zionist invaders is explicitly not a “Jewish State” and that it forgoes its candidacy to being a “Jewish State”, whatever that chimera may be. I am surprised by the fact that no one commenter has observed this, expect Mooser.

    We should give a big thanks to the BDS movement for bringing this about, although one can be almost sure that none of the tribals in it will use this argument with the larger public.

  13. WTraveler
    November 30, 2017, 4:25 pm

    US tax payers give Israel more than $3.8 BILLION dollars a year, yet the Israeli regime treats Americans (including American Jews) very harshly at the border if they don’t subscribe to Israel’s distorted version of ultra-nationalism. Strangely, Israel is considered an “ally” in the United States, although this sentiment is slowly changing. Some Americans are even denied entry if they are known to have criticized Israel’s brutal apartheid and illegal Jewish-only settlement policies. So much for the “only democracy” (sic) in the Middle East.

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