Israel’s Anti-BDS Law Backfires

Making use of new legislation meant to close Israel’s borders to active promoters of the movement to boycott the Jewish state, officials in Jerusalem recently tried to prevent Omar Shakir, an anti-Israel activist working for Human Rights Watch (HRW), from entering the country. But after HRW used its contacts in the State Department to pressure Israel, Shakir was granted a visa. Evelyn Gordon explains what this reversal shows about the law’s weaknesses:

By this decision, Israel eviscerated the one crucial point the law got right, despite the many it got wrong: you cannot wage an effective war on the BDS movement while giving the people behind it a pass. . . . Shakir is the epitome of someone who should have been denied entry, and his case exemplifies why the law’s basic assumption—that boycotters must be targeted personally—is 100-percent correct. . . . He has given lectures on college campuses in which he accused Israel of being an apartheid state, advocated anti-Israel boycotts, compared Zionism to “Afrikaner nationalism,” rejected a negotiated solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on the grounds that it would “institutionalize injustice,” and called for ending Israel’s existence as a Jewish state. . . .

[A]llowing Shakir to take up his post will do Israel incalculable harm. Yet, instead of doing the minimum research required to justify barring him as an individual, the border-control authorities made a hasty decision in February to deny him a visa on the sweeping grounds that HRW is an anti-Israel organization. Clearly, accusing an entire organization of being anti-Israel is far harder to justify, even if it happens to be true (which, in HRW’s case, I believe it is). Doing so without exhaustive research and intensive preparation for the inevitable diplomatic backlash was insane. . . .

[T]he new law . . . makes such damaging outcomes even more likely. Why? Because it differs from the old law, which also allowed prominent boycott advocates to be denied entry, in one respect only: instead of border-control officials needing the interior minister’s permission to bar a prominent boycotter, they can now do so on their own authority unless the government intervenes.

In other words, under the old law, visas were theoretically denied only in cases where the government had already decided it was prepared to stand behind the denial. By handing this authority over to relatively low-level officials, the new law makes it even more likely that the government will end up beating humiliating retreats from eminently reasonable decisions simply because they were made without the necessary research and preparation.

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Read more at Evelyn Gordon

More about: BDS, Human Rights Watch, Israel & Zionism

The New Iran Deal Will Reward Terrorism, Help Russia, and Get Nothing in Return

After many months of negotiations, Washington and Tehran—thanks to Russian mediation—appear close to renewing the 2015 agreement concerning the Iranian nuclear program. Richard Goldberg comments:

Under a new deal, Iran would receive $275 billion of sanctions relief in the first year and $1 trillion by 2030. [Moreover], Tehran would face no changes in the old deal’s sunset clauses—that is, expiration dates on key restrictions—and would be allowed to keep its newly deployed arsenal of advanced uranium centrifuges in storage, guaranteeing the regime the ability to cross the nuclear threshold at any time of its choosing. . . . And worst of all, Iran would win all these concessions while actively plotting to assassinate former U.S. officials like John Bolton, Mike Pompeo, and [his] adviser Brian Hook, and trying to kidnap and kill the Iranian-American journalist Masih Alinejad on U.S. soil.

Moscow, meanwhile, would receive billions of dollars to construct additional nuclear power plants in Iran, and potentially more for storage of nuclear material. . . . Following a visit by the Russian president Vladimir Putin to Tehran last month, Iran reportedly started transferring armed drones for Russian use against Ukraine. On Tuesday, Putin launched an Iranian satellite into orbit reportedly on the condition that Moscow can task it to support Russian operations in Ukraine.

With American and European sanctions on Russia escalating, particularly with respect to Russian energy sales, Putin may finally see net value in the U.S. lifting of sanctions on Iran’s financial and commercial sectors. While the return of Iranian crude to the global market could lead to a modest reduction in oil prices, thereby reducing Putin’s revenue, Russia may be able to head off U.S. secondary sanctions by routing key transactions through Tehran. After all, what would the Biden administration do if Iran allowed Russia to use its major banks and companies to bypass Western sanctions?

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Read more at Dispatch

More about: Iran nuclear deal, Russia, U.S. Foreign policy