OP-ED: Closed door policy

By ALAN SMASON

In recent months, the old American Dream of hope and opportunity has been contorted into a new, darker American Dream, whereby are found those who are able “to stand on their own two feet” and those who can afford to live within its borders.

To be frank, this is a vastly different public face for America under which I grew up. It is a strident tone for those less fortunate who would take refuge in our nation of immigrants.

Yes, immigrants. Because at one time or another – unless we are Native Americans – all of our forebears were foreign-born.

It is disheartening to think that the America of today might have refused entry to my own maternal great-great grandmother or her son-in-law and daughter because they might not have passed muster to border authorities. Thank goodness that was not the order of the day when they journeyed to America some seven generations ago.

This business of opening our borders to workers who take on menial jobs in exchange for economic opportunity and safety has long been our nation’s practice. Itinerant apple pickers in Washington State and foreign-born lettuce workers in California have been an accepted practice of farming in those two areas, for example. To hire American workers at full pay, as demanded by Congress and the Department of Labor, would be a financial disaster and would spiral prices way out of control. So, we hire those who would do these jobs and we look the other way while we count our blessings and our cash.

In Israel, it’s a different story. There have been and there are many still who would wreak havoc and bring about bloodshed and tragedy were they allowed unfettered access into the Jewish State. Terrorist groups like Hamas and Hezbollah left unchecked would regularly maim and kill just for the sake of creating instability in the region and in Israel specifically. The ultimate destruction of Israel has been their long-stated aim.

Holocaust deniers and those who support the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement have long been blocked from entering Israel on grounds of security and to prevent incitement to riot. Unlike the United States with its Constitution and Bill of Rights which guarantees Freedom of Speech, Israel can refuse entry to its borders and silence anyone who opposes its policies without intervention. Their situation, based on self-preservation, is entirely unlike ours with built-in protections for its citizens.

In answer to a tweet from our Chief Executive, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced late last week that two duly-elected American Congresswomen – namely Rashida Tlaib of Minnesota and Ilhan Omar of Michigan – would be denied entrance to Israel. While it certainly would have been uncomfortable for these two avowed opponents of Israel to have used their stay there or in the West Bank controlled by the Palestinian Authority to issue critical statements against Israeli policies, the decision to ban them created even more opportunity to level criticism at Israel’s policy of intolerance.

Worse, Tlaib had argued she wanted to visit her elderly grandmother, a Palestinian, on humanitarian grounds. Israel’s action, which within 24-hours was walked backwards as it affected Congresswoman Tlaib, exploded into controversy on both Continents. In the end, Tlaib decided she could not agree to being silenced in any way as a condition of her being allowed entry into Israel.

There is a major difference between Israel’s banning unwanted critics and BDS supporters on the one hand and, on the other, not allowing United States Congressional Representatives to travel there. As legitimately elected officials, they should be afforded a higher level of respect and access. To single them out for sanctions is unwarranted and disrespectful to our nation.

What this has done is to vilify Israel even more and to give fodder to its critics both domestically and globally. The fact that Tlaib turned down the opportunity to visit her grandmother after the original ban was walked back by Israeli authorities, may point to the possibility that she never truly desired to visit there. By reacting to the ban, Tlaib had turned this into a giant publicity stunt intended to engender sympathy toward her BDS cause.

Sometimes inaction is as important for saving face as taking bold and decisive action. Surely, Prime Minister Netanyahu hadn’t considered the downside of his ban. Henceforth, it would be a good idea for him to stick to banning non-government officials and terrorists and to think twice (or even three times) about imposing bans against official representatives of his allies again.

 

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