More on Finkelstein’s ban. Is this what democracy looks like?

In a story widely reported in the rest of the world, well known critic of Israel’s human rights record and child of Holocaust survivors Norman Finkelstein has been banned from entering Israel for 10 years. Israel has every right to choose who it lets in to the country, and Finkelstein supported Hezbollah during the Israel-Lebanon war, so Israel is justified in keeping him out of the country for 10 years. He consorted with the enemy. He’s a threat to the state. Right? Well, not according to Haaretz, which editorializes that a move seemingly meant more to punish Finkelstein for his views than to protect Israelis “hurts us more than it hurts him.” In fact, according to the Jerusalem Post:

Officials said that the decision to deport Finkelstein was connected to his anti-Zionist opinions and fierce public criticism of Israel around the world.

This is pretty shocking stuff. It’s particularly surreal, as Haaretz points out, because as a Jew with no criminal record, Finkelstein would be eligible to be an Israeli citizen. And then what? Glenn Greenwald over at Salon has a very thorough analysis of the entire story: he interviewed Finkelstein and his nemesis, Alan Dershowitz, who, shockingly, “was quite critical of Israel’s exclusion of Finkelstein.” Of course, none of the analysis mentions a) that Finkelstein isn’t just banned from Israel but from the Palestinian Territories over which Israel exercises complete control and b) that many, including Palestinian Americans and nonviolent human rights activists, are regularly held and turned back at the border. Even Condi Rice has complained about the treatment of American citizens of Palestinian descent, who are denied the right to see their own families and homes, while Jews who are in no danger and who may have never set foot outside of their hometown in the US or elsewhere are regularly invited to come “home” and become citizens. For those of us who have heard, witnessed or experienced these chilling first hand accounts of people turned back at the border, this is not new news. What is disturbing are newer reports that videotapes of US human rights activists are ending up in the hands of the Shin Bet, and that the FBI is working directly with the Israeli government to monitor US -based nonviolent activists. There is currently no way to document if these are just a few isolated cases or a trend. Haaretz says

The Shin Bet argues that Finkelstein constitutes a security risk. But it is more reasonable to assume that Finkelstein is persona non grata and that the Shin Bet, whose influence has increased to frightening proportions, latched onto his meetings with Hezbollah operatives in order to punish him. And the decision is all the more surprising when one recalls the ease with which right-wing activists from the Meir Kahane camp – the kind whose activities pose a security threat that no longer requires further proof – are able to enter the country.

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