Israel media review

BDS and bad mistakes: 6 things to know for August 15

Detention of left-wing activists at the airport worries some, while others take to Twitter to detail their own run-ins with Shin Bet security officers

Adiv Sterman is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Illustrative: People stand in line to go through passport control at Ben Gurion International Airport in Israel, September 21, 2008. (Yossi Zamir/Flash90)
Illustrative: People stand in line to go through passport control at Ben Gurion International Airport in Israel, September 21, 2008. (Yossi Zamir/Flash90)

1. While Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu condemned the recent detention of prominent liberal US Jewish journalist Peter Beinart at Ben Gurion Airport, saying the step was an “administrative mistake,” some individuals both at home and abroad are starting to get worried that this is more than just a trend.

  • Following several recent incidents involving left-wing US Jews being questioned about their political views upon entering Israel, Haaretz contributor Allison Kaplan Sommer details what one should know if for any reason they are suspected of having ties to BDS activists and are subsequently questioned by state representatives at Ben Gurion.
  • First off, “[i]f you are an Israeli citizen who is asked to wait at a border-control clerk’s desk, delaying your entry with no explanation given, your detention is illegal,” Dan Yakir, chief counsel for the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, tells Sommer. “An Israeli in such a situation should call a lawyer and ask for their intervention.”
  • Sommer points out that author Moriel Rothman-Zecher, an Israeli citizen living abroad who was recently detained at Ben Gurion, should have been told that he had no legal obligation to answer questions by authorities.
  • Yakir adds that while border-control representatives have the authority to ask noncitizens about political activities related to BDS, the Shin Bet does not.

2. Regardless of what one believes about the potential threats BDS activism may pose to Israel’s security, this whole questioning at the airport directive thing is turning out to be a PR disaster for the Jewish state, and if the point of these moves is to combat the delegitimization of Israel’s policies, this might not be the way to go.

  • For example, the Beinart incident prompts influential scholar Reza Aslan as well as human rights lawyer Vincent Warren of the Center for Constitutional Rights to detail their run-ins with authorities at the airport during recent trips to Israel.
  • “2 weeks ago, as I was crossing back into Israel from Jordan, I was separated from my family and detained by Shin Bet,” Aslan writes to his many, many followers on Twitter. “‘We can make it so you don’t see your kids for a long time,’ I was warned.”
  • Also on Twitter, Warren writes that he was denied entry into Israel and detained for 14 hours before being sent back to New York City.  “As a human rights lawyer, one learns to expect that from police states. So, I’m learning,” he writes.

3. Speaking of BDS, the Guardian runs a comprehensive article on the movement, its origins, its stated and unstated goals, its evolution over the years, and its impact on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict at large, as well as on the Jewish state in particular.

  • While the article is way too long to summarize here, it includes insights from the minds of prominent Israeli figures trying to combat BDS, as well as Palestinians caught between a movement that urges them to boycott the Jewish state and a reality that often demands cooperation with Israel.
  • Of course, the article also delves into the ideologies of BDS activists. While proponents have claimed the activists are motivated by a genuine interest in advancement of human rights, opponents have often charged that outright anti-Semitism underlies the foundations of the movement.

4. For a daily dose of heartwarming news, look no further than yesterday’s search for 11-year-old Ofri Sadeh, an autistic child who went missing in Tel Aviv’s Yarkon Park.

  • As word of Ofri’s disappearance quickly spread on social media, hundreds of volunteers poured in to assist police in the search. Ofri was eventually found safe and sound, and was reunited with his parents shortly thereafter.
  • “I thank everyone for the rapid response,” Ofri’s father, Gil, told Israeli news sites. “It’s amazing that they came, searched, helped, and found the lost child.”

5. Channel 10 News offers an amusing tale in which a spelling mistake assisted in the capture of a criminal.

  • According to the report, investigators recognized a would-be robber’s unique pattern of misspellings on a note he handed to a bank teller before fleeing the scene, and apprehended him a short while later.
  • Indeed, Leonid Dmitryenko had attempted to rob a bank three years ago as well, making a similar spelling mistake in the process.

6. Health Ministry officials have warned of possible contamination in the Jordan River, adding that bathing there should be avoided, Ynet reports.

  • According to the site, five Israelis who swam in the river were hospitalized and treated for leptospirosis after showing symptoms of the scary-sounding disease.
  • While the streams connected to the river provide drinking water to the Israeli public, a Health Ministry official insisted that there is “no indication of any problem, including [bottled] mineral water from all sources.”

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