09 March 2017

Border control and Israeli democracy

A disclaimer: the author of this post doesn't support* the new law that denies entry to BDS supporters and similar.

And no, I don't feel any sympathy to the BDS crowd who, by and large, diligently work to achieve one goal - so called "decolonization of Palestine". Unlike the fiery and dontcha-dare-argue-with-me Allison Kaplan Sommer, I don't believe that a visit to our place will possibly make a friend out of a BDS-nik enemy.

Saying this, I would like to address the concerns (or glee) of some of my friends and others who decry (or gloat upon) the supposed destructive impact this law has on Israeli democracy, imperfect as it is anyhow. Some of them even consider the law to be an abuse of human rights - no more and no less.

To consider the link between democracy and the right to visit (or emigrate to) a sovereign state, I would like to use a few recent examples from US of A.

Deportation of 35 Russian diplomats from the country by Barack Obama. Not only was it a rather sweeping measure (only a part of these 35 were involved in shady activities, most probably), there was also an issue of their families - all in all rather a nasty deal.

Obama putting an end to the 20-year-old "wet foot, dry foot" policy that allowed most Cuban migrants who reach U.S. soil to stay and become legal permanent residents after one year. No need to explain the meaning of this one, is there?

Trump's immigration ban(s).

If you think that I brought up these examples to attempt some "whataboutery", perish the thought. It is just that when Israel is being discussed, many people tend to lose their ability to think logically. So here we have three decisions related to states' borders and people rights. Some of these are less draconian, some totally amoral (guess which). All of these are relevant to citizens of other states.

Now, how do these decisions impact the state of American democracy? Well, not at all. The point is... I have already made my point: these three decisions are relevant to citizens of other states only. Democracy, by definition, is not about its treatment of foreign citizens. Moreover, democracies are known to treat other states (democracies included) quite shabbily. Democracies cheat one another at finances, spy one on another and sometimes even go to war one with another - all this while remaining democracies.

And there is no deity given right of a foreign citizen to cross the border of a democratic state. As everyone who ever stood in the line before border control and experienced the unwelcoming scowl of the border policeman/policewoman knows only too well.

So there.

(*) The new law is, first of all unnecessary: the border control has always had the authority to turn back unwanted visitors, which authority was exercised from time to time. The worrying tradition of our illustrious MKs to pile one unnecessary law upon another continues. After all, the competition of showing off his/her patriotism never ends with our solons.