The front-page article “Travel Ban Law Roiling Birthright, Liberals” (May 5) describes the concerns of a number of American Jewish students scheduled to participate in Birthright Israel trips. They worry that Israel’s anti-boycott legislation that forbids foreigners who publicly support the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel and its settlements might prevent them from entering the country. The CEO of Birthright attempted to put their minds at ease. He’s quoted as saying, “Birthright Israel does not inquire about the political views of its applicants and welcomes all Jewish young adults from around the globe to visit Israel.”
That should have ended the matter, but the writer of the article quotes student activist members of J Street and Americans for Peace Now who criticize the legislation as “draconian,” “a severe blow to Israeli democracy” and against “freedom of speech.” What nonsense.
Israel’s policies and actions are constantly under assault from both inside and outside the country by those who seek to harm and isolate it. Living in the only democracy in the region, every citizen of Israel has the right of free speech. But Israel also has every right to ban activists (the key word here is “activists”) from foreign countries whose agenda is to harm Israel and attack its legitimacy. I trust the Israeli government to know who to keep out. The ban absolutely does not apply to Birthright Israel participants. Many of these students are ill-informed and naïve about Israel’s history and the reality of its situation. They need to experience this vibrant and miraculous country firsthand, warts and all.
Fresh Meadows, Queens