Originally published in Tikkun Magazine |
In a somewhat surprising move, particularly given how carefully America treads when it comes to Israel, the U.S. State Department has rejected the visa request of an Israeli parliamentarian.
Michael Ben Ari, a member of the right-wing National Union party and one of Israel's 120 Knesset members, recently submitted a visa request to the U.S. consulate in order to participate in two conferences this week, one of which promotes American Jews' emigration from the United States to Israel.
However, to the surprise of Israeli officials, Ben Ari was just denied entry to the U.S. due to his membership in a Jewish terror organization.
As Haaretz reports:
[Ben Ari] was told that he cannot be granted the visa based on a clause that allows the U.S. State Department to prohibit the entrance of people who were involved in terror activities or were members of a terror organization in a foreign country. Ben Ari believes that the U.S. government is referring to his membership in the Kach movement, a far-right political movement that is considered a terror organization in Israel, Canada, the European Union, and the United States.The Kach movement, which began in America as a militant organization with the professed purpose of protecting American Jews, has since morphed into a nationalist extremist group in Israel.
The National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism at the University of Maryland describes the Kach movement in this way:
Rooted in extremist Jewish ideology, Kach sought to restore the Biblical land of Israel by annexing all the disputed territories of Israel and forcibly removing all Arabs. Preaching the motto of "terror against terror," Kach openly espoused violence against Arabs and actively participated in anti-Arab activities in Israel. As part of its extremist ideology, the group also espoused violence against the Israeli government. In the mid 1970s, Kahane sought to transform Kach into an organized political party, running twice unsuccessfully for the Israeli Knesset. In 1984, Kahane was successfully elected to the Knesset. However, in 1988, Israeli law was amended to forbid racist groups from participating elections, effectively barring Kach from the political scene.Now, one might ask how someone affiliated with a listed terror organization in Israel could serve in the Knesset in the first place.
Kach has vehemently opposed the peace process, threatening and using violence against both Arabs and Israeli government officials. Following the signing of the Oslo peace accords between Israel and the PLO in 1994, a Kach supporter killed 29 people in a mosque in Hebron. As a result of this attack, Israel formally outlawed Kach and designated it as a terrorist organization. Despite its being outlawed, Kach continues its anti-Arab activities within Israel. While the group has not officially claimed many attacks since being outlawed, Kach praises and supports any violence against Arabs.
However, Israel's Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin, infuriated by the State Department's visa refusal, had a different question for American officials: how can you recognize an Israeli government official as a terrorist?
Rivlin, in protest, wrote a scathing letter to the U.S. ambassador in Israel, Daniel Shapiro, demanding that the decision be reversed:
"I would like to express my protest against the decision and request that it be reconsidered."Apparently, the Obama administration sees things differently.
"Mr. Ben Ari is a Knesset member who represents the National Union party, an entirely legitimate party in the Israeli parliament. As a public official in Israel, a close ally of the U.S., he cannot be recognized as a member of a terror group or be prohibited from visiting the U.S.," Rivlin wrote.
And rightly so.
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