Israel’s Travel Ban Backlash: Over 100 Jewish Studies Scholars Threaten to Not Visit Israel in Protest

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Michael Walzer, Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton University (photo: Michael Walzer)

“In spite of our different views, we stand in strong opposition to the new law,” petition reads, while other liberal U.S. Jews warn new law will cause drift toward BDS camp.

By Taly Krupkin / Haaretz
March 10, 2017


“I’m very disappointed that Israel cannot deal with criticism in a democratic manner, and instead has to ban people who do not agree with the current government’s policy, Zionists, friends of Israel, people who feel deeply connected to the country.”
— David Biale, Professor of Jewish History, U.C. Davis


Dozens of prominent Jewish scholars worry they won’t be able to visit Israel anymore, citing a new law entitling the government to deny entry to supporters of boycotts against the country or its settlements in occupied territory. Meanwhile, only days after the passing of the new law, more than 100 Jewish studies scholars have signed a letter in which they threaten to refrain from visiting Israel in protest.

“Among us are those who oppose the BDS movement, those who oppose BDS but support a settlement boycott, and those who support BDS,” says the petition that has come to the attention of Haaretz, although it has not yet been published.

“In spite of our different views, we stand in strong opposition to the new law. It will be bad for Israel, bad for the cause of democracy at this fragile moment, and bad for the principles of free speech and thought on which our scholarship is based. We hope that the Israeli judiciary will overturn the new law and assure us that our political speech will not prevent us from continuing our rich scholarly interactions with Israeli colleagues in the field of Jewish studies. Should the law stand, we may no longer be permitted — nor permit ourselves — to enter the State of Israel.”

One of the letter’s organizers, David Biale, Professor of Jewish History at the University of California, Davis, told Haaretz that he visits Israel every year, and was planning to do so this summer as well.  “Now I’m going to have to reevaluate,” says Biale, whose studies focus on secularization in Jewish history.

“They want to push us into boycotting Israel; this is a very serious step. I’m very disappointed that Israel cannot deal with criticism in a democratic manner, and instead has to ban people who do not agree with the current government’s policy, Zionists, friends of Israel, people who feel deeply connected to the country.”

Many who have criticized the Boycott, Sanctions and Divestment movement in the past feel Israel’s legislation is pushing them closer to this camp, as they fear statements or petitions critical of Israeli policy toward the Palestinians may mean they are barred from visiting anymore.

Michael Walzer, co-editor of Dissent magazine and professor at the Institute for Advanced Study has been one of the most prominent critics of BDS on college campuses, urging a more targeted boycott of the occupation.

Walzer told Haaretz he saw the latest law as strengthening BDS.

[Read the full article here . . . ]

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