Where Vision and Reality Violently Diverge
By Jonathan Cook
Pfundheller, 30, an American dentist living in
Singapore, was set to become the youngest person to
visit every country in the world while in a
full-time job. His globetrotting has taken him to
192 of the 193 recognised states, bringing his
medical skills to the worldís remotest places. But
in January he was barred for the second time from
Israel, the only country left on his list, having
previously been refused entry last year.
Despite an invitation to a dental conference in Tel
Aviv, and Israelis who vouched for him, border
officials banned Mr Pfundheller for 10 years. No
reason was given, but lawyers suspect visits to Iran
and the Arab states sealed his fate. There could
hardly be starker evidence that Israel stubbornly
refuses to become a normal country.
Paradoxically, Israeli prime minister Benjamin
Netanyahu visited Singapore last month to promote
Israel as a tolerant country, one "committed to a
better world, a world of diversity."
The reality could not be more different. Arabs and
Muslims have always struggled to gain entry to
Israel. Palestinians are routinely abused at the
borders, and thousands, especially from Jerusalem,
have been stripped of the right to return home after
But new figures show Israel is excluding other
groups too. Entry denials have increased nine-fold
in the past five years, topping 16,000 people last
year. Among those increasingly turned away are
political activists. Israel controls all access to
the occupied Palestinian territories, and now
regularly denies entry to solidarity activists and
those who support the boycott movement.
But in practice the net is cast wider still.
Recently, Israel subjected Jennifer Gorovitz, an
American Jewish vice-president of the New Israel
Fund, to a humiliating interrogation at airport
arrivals. NIF is one of the largest funders of
Israeli organisations supporting human rights and
social justice. That includes assistance to groups
that monitor military abuses in the occupied
territories. This presumably explains why Ms
Gorovitzís interrogators suggested she posed a
"security threat". She finally gained admittance
only after Talia Sasson, the Israeli head of NIF,
Ms Gorovitz wrote of her experience: "My privilege
as a Jew means I never imagined that Israel could or
would deny me entrance."
Such an assumption was justified. Israelís Law of
Return is supposed to guarantee Jews around the
world the right to almost instant citizenship in
For that reason, the law is grossly unjust. It
privileges Jewish access to Israel at the expense of
the native Palestinian population, most of whom were
expelled in 1948.
Nonetheless, it is noteworthy that Israel, a state
that invested itself with the historical mission of
offering sanctuary to Jews worldwide, is
increasingly applying a political test to those who
arrive at its borders. Israel is denying entry not
only to Arabs and would-be record breakers. And it
is deporting not just those such as migrant workers
and African asylum seekers who might pollute the
Jewish state with non-Jewish genes. Now it is openly
targeting Jews whose politics do not align with the
far-right government of Mr Netanyahu.
be noted that many of the solidarity and boycott
activists turned away are Jewish. Famous Jewish
critics of Israel such as Noam Chomsky and Norman
Finkelstein have been barred too.
In Israelís eyes, it seems some Jews are more equal
The pulling up of the drawbridge comes as Israelís
leadership has remained largely silent in the face
of a rising tide of anti-semitism in the US, fuelled
by Donald Trumpís election as president. Dozens of
Jewish centres have received bomb threats, and
Jewish cemeteries have been vandalised.
There are growing rumblings among American Jews that
their interests are being overlooked by the
Netanyahu government to avoid damaging relations
with the new US administration. But another reason
for the lack of response should be considered.
The principle of the "ingathering of the exiles",
according to Israelís official ideology, Zionism,
assumes that Israel is the rightful home of Jews
everywhere. And the largest Jewish population
outside Israel resides in the US.
In November, Yaron London, a popular TV host,
welcomed Mr Trumpís election, pointing out that "a
worldview which supports white supremacy matches our
[Israeli] governmentís interests."
Last week opposition leader Isaac Herzog urged
Israel to prepare for an influx of US Jews fleeing
But will Israelís arms really be open to all Jews
equally, or only to those willing to contribute
enthusiastically to the tribal project?
And can Jews of conscience ignore the true cost of
their migration? They can leave behind anti-Jewish
bigotry in the US, but only if they bolster the
Jewish bigots of Israel who lord it over the native
Jonathan Cook is an independent journalist in
views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily
reflect the opinions of Information Clearing