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March 09, 2017

Israel's Entry Law, and America's

israel entry law.jpg

You can love it. You can hate it. But at least be correct, contextual, and consistent when talking about it.

While that's a universal best practice, in this case we're talking about Israel's new law restricting access to the country for some of those advocating boycott of the Jewish state.

We've already called on The New York Times to correct two errors in its editorial about the Israeli law. The editorial wrongly claims the US has "consistently held that settlement building in the occupied territories is illegal." In fact, since the Carter administration it has consistently avoided such a characterization.

The editorial also misleadingly downplays BDS aims, claiming that the movement is merely "against Israel for its occupation of the West Bank." As CAMERA and others (including BDS leaders) have pointed out, a trifecta of BDS goals essentially amount to a call for the elimination of the Jewish state.

Finally, the New York Times editorial, and a number of other media outlets, claim that the law bars entry to anyone who "supports" BDS. In fact, the law is worded much more narrowly, and refers not to supporters but rather anyone "who knowingly issues a public call for boycotting Israel that, given the content of the call and the circumstances in which it was issued, has a reasonable possibility of leading to the imposition of a boycott – if the issuer was aware of this possibility."

One might think from the reaction abroad, including that of The New York Times, that the Israeli law is particularly unusual. What overseas critics of the law don't mention, though, is that the United States has long had similar restrictions.

Section 212(a) of the Immigration and Nationality Act says that an alien "whose entry or proposed activities in the United States the Secretary of State has reasonable ground to believe would have potentially serious adverse foreign policy consequences for the United States is inadmissible." That's much broader than Israel's language.

The Immigration and Nationality Act also bars members of the Communist party: "Any immigrant who is or has been a member of or affiliated with the Communist or any other totalitarian party (or subdivision or affiliate thereof), domestic or foreign, is inadmissible."

And finally, it bars those who would break laws for the purpose of "opposition to … the United States":

In general.-Any alien who a consular officer or the Attorney General knows, or has reasonable ground to believe, seeks to enter the United States to engage solely, principally, or incidentally in … any activity a purpose of which is the opposition to, or the control or overthrow of, the Government of the United States by force, violence, or other unlawful means, is inadmissible.

One wonders if American critics of the new Israeli law have also criticized these laws, which are much closer to home.

Posted by GI at March 9, 2017 02:29 PM


I don't think you have characterised those US laws correctly. Section 22(a) of the Immigration and Nationality Act seems to be aimed at, e.g., the entry of people whose presence in the USA (e.g., the Dalai Lama, or the President of Taiwan in their official capacities) may be diplomatically embarrassing. Someone promoting BDS is annoying, possibly even financially damaging, but it doesn't have substantial foreign policy implications.

A similar criticism applies to the last quotation. It is aimed at

any activity a purpose of which is the opposition to, or the control or overthrow of, the Government of the United States by force, violence, or other unlawful means
The highlighted words are crucial to its intent; it's a prohibition on entry to those who plan to engage in the promotion of particular unlawful conduct, not people who will do stupid and/or embarrassing things. It doesn't even ban people who plan to promote other crimes, just revolutionary ones.

Posted by: Joe in Australia at March 9, 2017 07:09 PM

Not sure which "characterizations" you refer to. Other than noting a similarity to Israel's law — both have language that can be applied, narrowly or broadly, to screen aliens – the blog post doesn't characterize the US law at all. It simply quotes it.

It's worth noting here, though, that a 2011 Israeli law makes boycott advocacy a civil wrong, and for better or worse the new law appears to build on that.

Posted by: gi at March 10, 2017 11:31 AM

It is not only certain at best lazy and at worst dishonest journalists and editorialists in the non Jewish media who are misrepresenting the proposed law. See, for example, the Jewish Chronicle

Even worse, all too many Jewish communal leaders are condemning this measure without any regard for how it is worded.

Why should hardened BDS and lawfare activists and enablers feel able to enter Israel with impunity

Posted by: Paul at March 11, 2017 06:43 PM

The article says that Israel's anti-BDS law is similar to US immigration law.

Of course Israel and the USA each have laws that can be used to exclude aliens, but the cited American laws (with the possible exception of the anti-communist one) are aimed at people whose presence and/or activities in the USA would cause serious problems. I can't imagine that an advocate of BDS could cause similar problems, just because of their advocacy.

I think BDS is morally wrong, and many of its advocates probably would support crimes and insurrection within Israel, but to advocate BDS per se is not to advocate anything like the "force, violence, or other unlawful means" that the US language is meant to address.

Posted by: Joe in Australia at March 11, 2017 08:21 PM

Appreciate your thoughts, Joe. Seems we can agree, at least, that the US law barring communists is similar to the Israeli law barring those who advocate for boycotts on behalf of a movement that seeks to eliminate the Jewish state.

(Though the latter is worded to target an action as opposed to mere party membership.)

Posted by: gi at March 13, 2017 10:47 AM

The example use by "Joe in Australia" is way off target. The Dalai Lama has traveled to the US every year between 2010 and 2016 (I didn't go back further) and met with both Presidents Bush and Obama, despite the objections of the leaders of certain countries and the potential affect on foreign affairs. It is unreasonable to compare the Dalai Lama's relation with the US with activists dedicated to causing disruption and economic or physical harm to the US.
Those categories are more similar to Israel and the BDS situation.

Posted by: David at March 16, 2017 03:25 PM

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