Israel is rapidly turning into a police state. One in which even liberal civil society NGOs are no longer tolerated. A state like Russia or China or North Korea in which strongmen rule and dissenting voices are suppressed through legalism, violence or even murder. The first two have happened in Israel, but not yet the third (but it will eventually).
A former CEO of the San Francisco Jewish federation and current vice president of the New Israel Fund traveled to Israel for an executive committee meeting. Jennifer Gorovitz was also the first woman ever to lead a Jewish federation in a major American city.
At Ben Gurion airport, she was detained for three separate sets of questioning totaling 90 minutes. I have confirmed that the Shabak was one of the agencies involved in this moronic exercise. An Israeli security official I consulted looked askance on the motivation for the detention.
Those idiots in Ben Gurion made a serious fashla. I can’t think of any reason to question her. And there’s no free lunch: at the same time they were busy questioning her, a person who we really need to question may have entered Israel unnoticed.”
The notion that a civil society official would be subject to interrogation as a security threat is beyond preposterous. Israel now considers its own law-abiding, non-violent, non-revolutionary NGOs to be threats to the nation. This can only mean one thing: Israel is no longer a democracy. The rest of the world should take notice and act accordingly.
I know someone in this corner of the world who will turn over in bed and push the snooze button. Donald Trump, who sees Muslim terrorists flooding our airports, will have nothing to say on behalf of a peace-loving American citizen doing God’s work in the Holy Land. In fact, David Friedman, the new U.S. ambassador to Israel probably would call her a “kapo” and say they let her off too easy.
You can be certain that this was a deliberate act by either Netanyahu himself or one of his ministers eager to curry favor with the settler lobby. As Gil Erdan’s strategic affairs ministry was responsible for the recent scandal in which one of its officers was found to be plotting to destroy the career of a Tory minister, I’d put my money on Erdan as having some role in this. Further, Erdan’s agency has responsibility for combatting BDS and Gorovitz was explicitly asked during her detention whether NIF supported BDS. Incidentally, you’d only have to read the newspapers to know that it doesn’t.
Apparently, the security services frown upon NIF’s support for what it calls “Palestinian organizations” and asked whether NIF supports them. It does within the Green Line. But they were suspicious that NIF supports Palestinians in the Territories and asked if she’d be traveling there. Once again, it’s clear as day that NIF doesn’t and wouldn’t (unless Israel annexed them, in which case NIF could work there).
So if it doesn’t support BDS, what other threat could it pose? It supports Israeli Palestinians. They are the threat. Arabs are the threat in the paranoid mind of the Israeli far-right. But NIF doesn’t support all such non-profits. In fact, NIF has defunded those which came even close to supporting a single state. It walks a fine–and what I’d call impossible–line seeking to stave off opposition from the ultra-nationalist Likudists while attempting to support Israeli Palestinians. Personally, I believe NIF is a liberal Zionist palliative. It permits Israel to say it is democratic, while defanging it to such an extent that it offer little more than a band-aid on a tumor.
Keep in mind as well, that as a liberal Zionist and American Jew working for an Israeli NGO, Gorovitz was treated with kid gloves compared to how Palestinian officers of foreign NGOs are treated. The Shin Bet arrests and imprisons them as real enemies of the state. Why? Because they seek to better the lives of Gazans under Israeli siege. And you never hear a peep out of NIF when such travesties occur.
Theresa May: Bibi’s Poodle?
In a related incident, Bibi Netanyahu traveled to Britain this week to meet with UK PM Theresa May. One of the items on their agenda was the demand by Israel that the UK stop funding Breaking the Silence, one of the very same Israeli NGOs now viewed as enemies of the state. Today, Yehuda Shaul, the group’s founder, wrote that Bibi had his group in the crosshairs. May’s response isn’t yet known, but her government torpedoed a joint statement to be delivered after the recent Paris peace talks on Israel-Palestine. So it’s likely she would “look favorably” (to adopt Lord Balfour’s language) on Bibi’s demand.
All of which is quite ironic considering the scandal involving Shai Masot, a wannabe intelligence agent working out of the Israeli embassy in London. He sought to sabotage the career of Alan Duncan, the deputy foreign secretary. He was also caught pumping 1-million pounds sterling into the British political system for funding travel junkets to Israel for Labour Party MPs.
As I wrote above, Masot works for Erdan’s ministry. This egregious violation of British sovereignty was followed by Bibi’s new set of demands. Chutzpah knows no bounds as far as Israel is concerned.
The question is why these states can’t show some spine and stand up to this political extortion. Until they do, there is no hope for peace. No hope for a State of Israel based on full democracy and equality for all citizens. The only way to insist on this is for the world to hold Israel accountable; to levy sanctions and demand change. We have done this before with Serbia, Iran and Russia; and earlier with Germany and Japan after WWII. Israel must not be immune from accountability.