After being turned away from Ben-Gurion airport by authorities and put on a plane back to the United States, Ariel Gold, a supporter of the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel, mused on Israel’s i24 News that she might consider making aliyah in order to be able to enter the country. Under Israel’s Law of Return, Gold, who happens to be co-director of the left-wing group Code Pink, would be eligible for citizenship by virtue of being Jewish.
As a media-savvy and strident proponent of Palestinian rights and opponent of Israel’s presence in the West Bank — accusing Israel of apartheid and calling Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu a “war criminal” — Gold is trying to make the most of Israel’s blacklist of 20 pro-BDS groups. Six are U.S. groups: In addition to Code Pink, there’s Jewish Voice for Peace, American Friends Service Committee, American Muslims for Palestine, National Students for Justice in Palestine and the U.S. Campaign for Palestinian Rights. Her denial by Israel provided her with fodder for a stream of critical posts on social media.
Gold’s public outcry over her removal from Israel is in lockstep with the patent hypocrisy of other BDS proponents: working to silence those who would defend the Jewish state while protesting when their own voices are silenced.
Gold’s idea of making aliyah is likely a rhetorical ploy, but her personal story puts her squarely in the Jewish communal tent. Gold is a mother of two and a member of a Reform congregation in Ithaca, N.Y. Her children have been bar and bat mitzvahed and have attended Reform movement summer camps. Last summer, her son toured Israel with the NFTY youth group.
Gold was in Israel last summer, as well. When she left, she was told to get a visa if she wanted to return. She flew to Israel last month, having obtained a visa from the Israeli consulate in New York. That’s when she was denied entry.
“We prevented Ariel Gold, an extreme boycott activist, from entering the country,” Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan tweeted. “Our policy is clear: Those who campaign towards boycotting Israel and come here in order to cause harm — won’t be allowed to enter the country. The rules have changed, and Israel will not show restraint towards those who try to hurt it.”
We oppose the BDS movement, as do all but a thin slice of the organized Jewish community. But we also question the efficacy of Israel’s BDS blacklist. While Israel certainly has the right to do whatever she deems appropriate to protect the security of her citizens, announcing such a blacklist has backfired in its public relations war.
And there is a difference between boycotts and hostile rhetoric on the one hand, and missiles, tanks and violent, life threatening attacks, on the other. Wars of words, contrarian thinking and debate are nothing new to a robust democracy like Israel.
In denying Gold entry, the Israeli government stumbled into a trap of its own making, giving Gold ammunition for her objectionable criticism. PJC