Last week, the American journalist Peter Beinart—a relentless left-wing critic of the Jewish state and a supporter of boycotts of the settlements—wrote a story for the Forward recounting his extensive questioning by Israeli police upon his arrival at Ben-Gurion airport. He asserted that, based on the questions he was asked, he was being harassed because of his political beliefs. While no admirer of Beinart’s politics, Ben-Dror Yemini believes something is amiss with the Shin Bet, the Israeli agency that oversees internal security matters:
[It] is a state’s right to deny entry to those who reject its right to exist. Any civilized nation has a list of undesirables, and Israel’s lists are not much different from those of Britain or the U.S. But something has changed. Someone has [become] trigger-happy. Now it’s the “questioning” of Peter Beinart, which follows other unnecessary questioning of “suspects” whom there was no reason to suspect of anything. Not everyone who wrote an article against Israel or against one policy or another of the Israeli government needs to be questioned. And if that were the case, then 80 percent of academics, NGO members, and journalists . . . would have to be detained and questioned.
[It would therefore seem] that in recent months, someone at the Shin Bet has decided to act in the service of Israel’s vilifiers and provide proof to those who claim Israel has stopped being a democracy. . . .
These detainments, [however], don’t point to an Israel deteriorating and turning into a police state, or to the end of democracy. They point to the loss of discretion and to a severe level of stupidity, and that is no less grave. . . . [E]verything Beinart and his ilk have to say, they say in writing. They don’t belong to any underground movement. . . . We don’t have to wait for it to happen to know that every detainment like this is on the one hand a propaganda gift to Israel’s haters, and on the other hand useless. . . .
The Shin Bet needs a political [director] who understands the global left-wing map. Someone who could differentiate between activists of the campaign to eliminate Israel—who should be denied entry—and journalists or [run-of-the-mill] left-wing activists who have a right to criticize Israel, call for a boycott on settlement products, and even curse the Israeli government without being detained as they enter or leave the country.