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, 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 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’ve made our opposition to BDS clear. It’s the common position of all but a thin slice of the organized Jewish community. We’ve also questioned the efficacy of the BDS blacklist. In January, as the blacklist was announced, we asked, “What strong democracy fears critics? And why should the Jewish state fear fellow Jews?”
“There is a difference between boycotts and hostile rhetoric on the one hand, and missiles, tanks and violent, life threatening attacks, on the other,” we wrote. “Wars of words and 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. Israel’s wholesale exclusion effort appears to put BDS activists at the same threat level as Iran. That’s a chilling thought, as the two are just not the same.