Netanyahu’s Gate of Darkness

Editorial Netanyahu’s Gate of Darkness

The government has decided to fight anyone who criticizes it, and the entryway to Israel has become another tool in this war

Haaretz Editorial16.08.2018 | 00:57

Benjamin Netnayahu and the head of the Shin Bet security service, Nadav Argaman, 2017. Kobi Gideon / GPO

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu apologized for the detaining and questioning of American Jewish journalist Peter Beinart at Ben-Gurion Airport earlier this week, saying it was an “administrative error.” Netanyahu can continue with his campaign of deceptions, but the large number of such instances point to a clear change in policy. This was not an administrative error, but a systematic error. The government has decided to fight anyone who criticizes it, and the entryway to Israel has become another tool in this war.

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This change in policy can be found in the testimony of Danny Kronberg, a member of the left-wing group Taayush from Jerusalem. Kronberg was summoned by the police in July. The interrogator introduced himself as Geva, and told him he was the Shin Bet coordinator for the radical left and delegitimization in the Kiryat Arba area. Indeed, Netanyahu and his government are seeking to delegitimize anyone who opposes the occupation and government policy.

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This accumulation of incidents ought to alarm any Israeli who seeks to live in an enlightened and democratic country. Since Kronberg was summoned for questioning, the head of the Coalition of Women for Peace, Israeli Tanya Rubinstein, was detained and questioned when she return to Israel; Israeli Yehudit Ilani was detained when she returned from covering the preparations for a Gaza-bound flotilla; American Jewish attorney Meyer Koplow was questioned at the airport after a Palestinian pamphlet in English was found in his suitcase; Israeli Moriel Rothman-Zecher was detained by the Shin Bet at the border for a “warning talk,” and was asked about his involvement with Breaking the Silence and All That’s Left, and last week the Shin Bet detained left-wing activists Simone Zimmerman and Abigail Kirschbaum.

On Wednesday, Iranian-American writer Reza Aslan joined the list; he said that two weeks ago he was stopped by a Shin Bet representative when trying to enter Israel from Jordan and was questioned for hours; questioning that he said included threats like, “If you don’t cooperate it will be a long time before you see your children again.”

These incidents do not square with the remark that accompanied Netanyahu’s apology, that Israel “welcomes its critics and supporters alike.” They also cast a heavy shadow on the Shin Bet, which instead of dealing with real threats is being directed by the spirit of the commander and doing damaging things that erode Israel’s democratic character.

Following Beinart’s questioning, Deputy Attorney General Dina Zilber said that her office would examine the issue of questioning left-wing activists at the entrances to Israel. But Zilber cannot resolve the heart of the problem – a right-wing nationalist government, which in the best tradition of benighted regimes draws up blacklists to silence criticism and to intimidate those who don’t toe the line. This is a government conducting an illegitimate policy and its leader isn’t worthy of his position.

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