I wake up this morning with major cognitive/emotional dissonance. On the one hand, I am celebrating Team Israel’s improbable sweep of its round in the World Baseball Classic, with wins over South Korea and the Netherlands, teams loaded with major league stars. I LOVE this story. On the other hand, I just realized that the Israeli Parliament (the Knesset) just banned me from visiting the country where I lived for two years, met my future wife and fell in love, and formed my identity as a Jew.
The ban would apply not only to people who call for boycotting Israel, but also to those who support boycotts of any Israeli institution or any “area under its control,” obviously meaning the settlements.
Although I don’t support full “BDS” (boycott/divest/sanction) of Israel, I do support a boycott and divestment of Israeli settlements and their products. So even though I don’t support full “BDS,” Israel’s govt is boycotting, divesting and sanctioning people like me.
I’m not sure what the next steps are. But if the Israeli government says I may not enter legally, I cannot travel there, so I am cornered into a de facto travel boycott. And even if I didn’t support boycotting of the Israeli settlements, how could I possibly support country with this kind of discriminatory, undemocratic policy?
We just had a meeting this week at our son’s Jewish high school about the school trip to Israel next spring for seven weeks. That night, I was so excited for him to take the adventure with friends and without us, to take a leap into independence. My adventure in Israel when I was 15 was transformative in many ways. I want him to share that experience. Today, I feel worse than ambivalent about Israel, I feel torn and betrayed. If I wanted to visit him there, would I even be allowed to? This travel ban seems to be a more aggressive turning point. Commentators across the political spectrum have been saying for years that as long as the two-state solution is stalled or dead, Israel cannot be both a Jewish state and a democracy. If Israel wants to claim to be a democracy, the Palestinians cannot live as stateless disenfranchised third-class non-citizens indefinitely. As Israel approaches the 50th anniversary of the Six Day War and seizing control of the West Bank and Gaza, it seems to me that the Knesset has chosen “Jewish state” over “democracy” more aggressively and decisively than ever before. No, it is worse than that: It is actively rejecting the core principles of democracy.
The best piece I’ve seen as a Jewish parent is Peter Beinart’s: “I support boycotting settlements. Should I be banned from Israel with my children?”
His conclusion is most powerful:
“Now, in my long-running battle with Netanyahu for my children’s identity, the prime minister has struck an unexpected blow. The good news is that in a few years they will start going to Israel on school trips without me. I hope they visit many, many times, and come to cherish the place as I do. My mother once told me that my grandfather, for whom my son is named, was never happier than when he was arguing politics on Dizengoff Street. God willing, my son and daughter will pass many days doing that too.
“But if I can’t be there with them, so be it. My parents gave me many gifts, but the most important was their example. They loved South Africa and they opposed apartheid. And when the tension between their lives and their principles grew too great, they chose the latter, and they left. As I child, I sensed their sadness and their isolation. And I felt proud to be their son.
“In my family, we have a tradition. We lose countries but we keep our self-respect.”
Update: My friend Rabbi Matt Carl adds: “Plenty of us said ‘if there’s a Muslim ban, I’ll register as Muslim.’ I’m happy to claim I support BDS for this/analogized purpose.” Absolutely the right moral response. Count me in.