Categorized | Opinion

The optics don’t matter on Israel’s ban of Omar and Tlaib

Posted on 16 August 2019 by Sharon Wisch-Ray

By Jerome M. Marcus

(JNS) Just as its enemies hoped, Israel has been attacked for denying entry to two U.S. congresswomen who, in clear violation of Israeli law, sought to enter the country so they could use it as a backdrop to advocate for the BDS movement. So rabid are these haters that, in the itinerary they submitted to the State of Israel, they said they wanted to come to visit “Palestine,” wherever that is. The State of Israel has no power to authorize people to enter the imaginary country of Palestine, regardless of where its imaginary borders might be.

Indeed, Israel first agreed to allow Omar and Tlaib entry. As Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu explained in his statement announcing the revocation of this permission, Israel changed its mind only when their planned itinerary made clear “that their intent is to hurt Israel” and promote “unrest against it.”

No country has any obligation to let admit people who come only to attack. Yet Israel has been denounced for this decision.

The answer is that the attacks come from different flanks. The actual Israel-haters are delighted to attack Israel for not letting the women in, just as they would have been delighted to attack Israel for letting them in and then bemoaning the oppression of the Palestinians that the women came to promote.

Another front, though, has been Israel’s “reasonable” friends, who worry that by barring its door to these enemies Israel allowed itself to be made to look bad. Let’s hold that accusation up to the light.

Several years ago, a “flotilla” set sail to Gaza from Turkey, including several boats filled with celebrity Israel-haters and one filled with actual terrorists. They claimed they were coming to deliver humanitarian supplies to the oppressed Arabs in Gaza, which is under a blockade that even the United Nations says is legal because the Hamas government in Gaza has declared war on Israel (and, just for good measure, on all Jews throughout the world). In fact, though, as was obvious to anyone who was paying attention, these people wanted to do nothing other than stage a publicity stunt, manufacture victims of Israeli self-defense, declare victory and go home.

Israel stopped most of the boats without incident, but the one with the trained terrorists on it put up a fight. Israel landed some of its most highly trained special ops soldiers on the deck of this ship, armed with sidearms and paint guns—yes, you heard that right, paint guns. So enormously brave and skilled were these Jewish heroes that they ultimately subdued the terrorists on deck, who came at them with metal rods, tried to kidnap one and bloodied several before they were defeated.

The world’s response? The same foolish nonsense we hear now about Omar and Tlaib. Israel’s avowed enemies claimed to be shocked at Israel’s bad behavior, saying they used violence to stop a humanitarian campaign! And all its tepid friends could do in response was to wring their hands and moan that the incident made Israel look bad.

This response came then, as it often does now, from people who clearly care about Israel, accurately evaluate Israel’s enemies most of the time and who should know better than to be cowed by publicity stunts. The only point of the exercise—of the Mavi Marmara “humanitarian” flotilla, like the “learning exercise” of Tlaib and Omar, was to make Israel look bad. For a reporter or analyst to say that Israel failed because it looked bad by barring its door to these enemies is an entirely self-fulfilling prophecy. In fact, it isn’t even a prophecy; it’s just a self-referential announcement about the views of the announcer. Israel, these people are saying, looks bad because I have announced in print that Israel looks bad.

This is nonsense. What Israel did was simply to deny entry to enemies—something that every reasonable country does every day. The United States denies visas all the time to people it deems a threat. In fact, according to a General Accounting Office report from 2018, in the United States, under President Barack Obama, the non-immigrant visa refusal rate rose from about “14 percent in fiscal year 2012 to about 22 percent in fiscal year 2016, and remained about the same in fiscal year 2017; averaging about 18 percent over the time period,” according to the report. “The total number of NIVs issued peaked in fiscal year 2015 at about 10.89 million, before falling in fiscal years 2016 and 2017 to 10.38 million and 9.68 million, respectively.”

Looking bad is in the eye of the beholder. Lookers who are analysts (and even those who are just thoughtful) should feel no obligation to bemoan Israel’s “looking bad” for anything unless it really is bad. If it’s not, then the objective analyst should always say exactly that.

On Friday morning, it was announced that Israel had granted Tlaib’s request to enter the country so that she could visit her 90-year-old grandmother, who lives in the disputed territories. “It may be my last chance to see her,” Tlaib tearily told the media before Israel acquiesced. Israel insisted only that Tlaib agree that while she was on this humanitarian visit, she not promote a boycott of the Jewish state. Tlaib’s response? After saying “yes,” she ultimately said “no.” She thus proclaims her real truth: Visiting her aged grandmother was less important than promoting hatred of the Jewish state.

If anyone had any doubt about the intended purpose of this “visit” by Omar and Tlaib, this capitulation by Tlaib removes it. They weren’t coming to learn and see, and they weren’t coming to promote peace. They weren’t even coming to visit family. Instead, as Tlaib makes absolutely clear, they were coming only for one reason: to hurt Israel. If they couldn’t do that, they weren’t coming at all, even to visit aged family members whom they will probably never see again.

Israel absolutely should not fall victim to such stunts. And neither should its friends.

Jerome M. Marcus is a lawyer and a fellow at the Kohelet Policy Forum in Jerusalem.

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