Los Angeles Times Errs on International Law, Israeli Entry Law

In an article about the Israeli Strategic Affairs Ministry’s publication of a list of 20 pro-BDS (the anti-Israel campaign calling for boycott, divest and sanctions) organizations whose key activists will be denied entry into the country, The Los Angeles Times’ article errs regarding international and Israeli law, including the entry law in question (“Organizations that promote a boycott of Israel are no longer welcome there,” in print January 8, page 4).
 
Special correspondent Noga Tarnopolsky writes:

At the same time, Israel is defying norms and conventions relating to international freedom of movement and its own laws.

Immediately after the list was published, the Jewish Agency for Israel, the quasi-governmental body that facilitates the immigration of Jews to the country, announced it would ignore the order.

““There’s a difference between immigrating and visiting, for whatever purpose,” said Yigal Palmor, the agency’s director of public affairs and communications. “Those individuals who wish to have a future for themselves and their families in Israel will continue to be welcomed.”

Which norms? Which conventions? Which laws compel states to admit each and every non-citizen who wishes to enter? Tarnopolsky doesn’t say, because there are none.
 
As Professor Gerald Steinberg of NGO Monitor correctly observed:

All democracies have regulations governing the issuance of visas and border entry regulations — there are inherent in state sovereignty. Countries routinely ban racists; individuals who incite to violence and create social disorder/polarization etc. Tourist visas are not natural rights.

The United States, for its part, has long had similar restrictions, as CAMERA’s Gilead Ini previously noted:

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 Community 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.”

Jewish Agency to ‘Ignore the Order’?
 
On a separate issue, Tarnopolsky incorrectly states that the Jewish Agency “announced it would ignore the order.” In two conversations with CAMERA, Jewish Agency spokesman Yigal Palmor, whom the article otherwise accurately quotes, adamantly denied that the Jewish Agency announced it would “ignore” the order. He said: “The Jewish Agency has not said it would ‘ignore’ the directive because it is not subject to the authority of the Strategic Affairs Ministry.” He added: “I didn’t ignore and I did not not ignore because I am not under the authority of [Strategic Affairs Minister Gilad] Erdan. So what he says is completely immaterial to the work of the Jewish Agency.” 
 
Similarly, Palmor told Haaretz: “‘This list only applies to individuals visiting Israel and has nothing to do with aliyah,’ said Palmor. ‘Gilad Erdan [Israel’s strategic affairs minister] has no authority over immigration.'”
 
Moreover, according to Haaretz, the Strategic Affairs ministry itself has explicitly stated that the policy has no bearing on immigration. Haaretz reported:
As for activists who want to move to Israel, the ministry said: “The right to move to Israel exists for every Jew. The denial of entry law will not withhold this right from any person who is entitled to it in the framework of the Law of Return.”
Thus, how could the Jewish Agency possibly be said to be “ignoring” the law by allowing these activists to immigrate given that the law itself in no way prohibits their immigration? Even if the Jewish Agency was subject to the Ministry (and it’s not), a Jewish Agency decision to allow these activists to immigrate is completely in line with the law. Therefore, in no way could the Jewish Agency possibly be “ignoring” the law.
 
Incorrect Speculation
 
In another journalistic shortcoming which misrepresents the law, Tarnopolsky incorrectly speculates:

The ban may run afoul of a standard published on the website of Israel’s Interior Ministry. The standard says: “Membership in an anti-Israel or pro-Palestinian organization holding an agenda critical of the Government of Israel is not, prima facie, justification for denial of entry to Israel.”

In fact, the law in no way runs afoul with the Interior Ministry directive which states that “membership in an anti-Israel or pro-Palestinian organization” is not alone justification for denial of entry. To the contrary, the criteria for the entry law, also posted on the Interior Ministry website, itself explicitly states (Haaretz‘s translation from the Hebrew):

the fact that an organization is anti-Israel or pro-Palestinian or has a critical agenda toward Israeli government policy, does not, in itself, constitute a reason to deny entry to Israel.

Thus, the entry’s laws wording about membership in an anti-Israel or pro-Palestinian organization is virtually identical [with minor differences stemming apparently in the English from translation] to the wording of the reported “standard published on the website of Israel’s Interior Ministry,” prompting the question: Did the reporter mistake the entry law criteria with a directive of the Interior Ministry? Are the two purportedly different guidelines actually one and the same? Clearly, the ban can’t run afoul of itself.
 
Thin Reporting
 
Tarnopolsky provides little to no specifics regarding the boycott activities of the organizations whose key activists will be denied entry. Thus, regarding the American Friends Service Committee, the journalist stated that it is “a Quaker organization that in 1947 won the Nobel Peace Prize for its work helping victims of the Nazis.” While AFSC’s World War II-related work is of no relevance to its inclusion in a list of organizations engaged in an anti-Israel boycott, the article fails to mention its current relevant activity.
 
Thus, according to NGO Monitor:

The American Friends and Services Committee(AFSC) is active in promoting BDS on campus, at the Presbyterian Church in the US, and in advocating for divestment from Hewlett Packard and Sodastream. According to its “Palestine-Israel Program Director, AFSC rejects“any project, initiative, or activity, in Palestine or internationally, that aims (implicitly or explicitly) to bring together Palestinians and Israelis (people or institutions) without placing as its goal opposition and resistance to the Israeli occupation and structural inequalities.”

CAMERA is in communication with editors regarding these issues. Stay tuned for an update.

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