‘Israel Hayom’ outs prominent Jewish American BDS activist

Israel’s most widely-circulated newspaper outs Ariel Gold, just months after the Knesset passes law banning entry to anyone who encourages boycotting Israel. 

Jewish American activist Ariel Gold stands in front of an Israeli checkpoint in Hebron.
Jewish American activist Ariel Gold stands in front of an Israeli checkpoint in Hebron.

Under the headline “BDS activist tricks authorities, enters Israel against protocol,” Israel Hayom, the country’s most widely-circulated daily newspaper, published an article last Thursday that outed Jewish American activist Ariel Gold over her support for boycotting Israel. The article, written by Shimon Yaish and Yair Altman, provided a golden opportunity to make sure the interior minister was made aware of the situation, after the Knesset passed legislation earlier this year banning foreign nationals who support the boycott of the country from entering its borders.

Yaish and Altman made sure to call the authorities’ attention to the so-called “oversight.” From the article:

Ariel Gold, a major boycott, divestment and sanctions activist was able to trick authorities and enter Israel last week despite measures to prevent the entry of anti-Israel activists, Israel Hayom learned Thursday…As it turns out, a week prior to arriving in Israel, Gold deleted her anti-Israel Facebook posts, going as far back as 2012.

The two even went so far as to quote an anti-BDS activist, who called Gold’s entry “a disaster.” According to Israel Hayom, a Public Security Ministry official said the ministry was reviewing the situation, and that Gold would not be allowed to enter Israel in the future.

The recent steps taken by the Israeli government against Jewish activists — both Zionist and less Zionist — such as Jennifer Gorovitz, the vice president for finance, operations, and administration of the New Israel Fund, who was held for interrogation at Ben Gurion Airport earlier this year, signal a possible change in Israel’s Law of Return. If until now every Jew was freely able to enter or immigrate to the Jewish state, it appears that the government is changing direction and allowing only those Jews who hold a specific set of views to enter. Those who aren’t Jews, as always, are left out.

Israel Hayom did not bother speaking to Gold or asking her for a response. Moreover, she has yet to be contacted by any government or police official. We spoke to Gold, a prominent activist in the left-wing feminist organization, CODEPINK, to ask her a few questions about the controversy.

According to Israel Hayom, you tricked the authorities in order to enter Israel.

Upon entering Israel I was taken in by security for further questioning. We spoke about my previous activities in Palestine and Israel, as well as my connections to this region and Judaism.

Israeli security personnel seen at Ben-Gurion International Airport. (photo: Activestills.org)
Israeli security personnel seen at Ben-Gurion International Airport. (photo: Activestills.org)

I told them that I support Palestinian human rights and international law, and believe only in nonviolence as a way to achieve that. I told them that I have raised my children in the Jewish faith, that we belong to congregation Tikkun v’Or, a Reform synagogue, and that they have attended Reform Jewish summer camp since they were each seven years old. I told them how important Judaism has been to me.

Are you trying to hide your support for BDS?

BDS is a nonviolent means to achieve human rights for Palestinian in the tradition of the civil rights movement in the U.S. and the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa. In the U.S. we demand that BDS be recognized as a protected form of free speech. If Israel wishes to be a democracy, the right to boycott is one if the first rights it should grant its citizens.

How many times have you visited Israel-Palestine? Did you previously encounter any problems on your way in or out at the airport?

This is the fifth time. I first came to Israel/Palestine in 2013 with a delegation from the U.S. to witness the occupation and work being done to achieve a just peace. I was shocked by what I saw. In Hebron teenage Jewish boys carry automatic weapons into synagogue and violent settlers are protected by the army while Palestinians face checkpoints at every turn. In 2014 I brought my children here in between their bar and bat mitzvahs to see the situation with their own eyes, as well as to go to the city of Safed where our ancestor, Joseph Caro, was born.

Palestinian nonviolent Issa Amro. (photo: Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)
Palestinian nonviolent Issa Amro. (photo: Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

In 2015, I was arrested in Bil’in and since then I have faced extra scrutiny upon entering the country. This time while I am here I will attend the trial of Palestinian human rights defender Issa Amro, who faces 18 different charges in Israeli military court for his nonviolent human rights activism. I have gotten to know Issa and his commendable work over the years. It is because of his success in nonviolent organizing that Israel is trying to put him in prison, and I believe that my support for him has triggered these current attacks on me.

Did you come to Israel ‘to spread lies about Israel’ as is being claimed?

I am not here to spread lies about Israel. The statements I have made, such as saying Israel is an apartheid state that violates human rights, are accurate and true. In the West Bank Israeli settlers are subject to Israel civil law while Palestinians like Issa live under military law. For 50 years Palestinians in the occupied territories have been denied their basic human rights. For almost 70 years, Palestinian refugees have been denied the right to return to their land in accordance with international law, while Palestinian citizens of Israel have have faced faced laws that systematically discriminate against them.

What do you think should be the role of diaspora Jews vis-a-vis Israel’s actions?

When human rights are being violated, all people around the world have a stake in helping bring about peace and justice. As an American, and especially as a Jewish American, I have a responsibility to do what I can to end Israel’s occupation and human rights abuses. At the end of Obama’s term, he increased U.S. military aid to Israel to $3.8 billion a year. This comes at the expense of American communities in need, and is the result of groups like AIPAC demanding unquestioned American diplomatic and financial support for Israel.

Israeli soldiers arrest a Palestinian man in the West Bank city of Hebron, on June 19, 2017. (Wisam Hashlamoun/Flash90)
Israeli soldiers arrest a Palestinian man in the West Bank city of Hebron, on June 19, 2017. (Wisam Hashlamoun/Flash90)

At his bar mitzvah, my son spoke about the obligation we have to help our people return to the right path if we have gone astray. There is no better example of this obligation than to say that as long as Israel is violating the human rights of Palestinians, Jews within and outside Israel must act in solidarity with the Palestinian struggle for freedom.

Did you really confront Israeli soldiers, as Israel Hayom claims?

I spoke with soldiers in Hebron. I asked them if it was true that the main road there is divided, with one side for Jews and the other for Muslims. I was shocked when they said yes, and an engaged them in a discussion about whether this constitutes apartheid.

What do you think about not being allowed back?

If I am not allowed back I will be very sad. However, this past Shabbat I asked my Rabbi for council. I am grateful for the support of people like him, who believe I am doing the right thing by working for Palestinian human rights and must be strong in my convictions that all people deserve freedom, justice, and equality.

Yael Marom is Just Vision’s public engagement manager in Israel and a co-editor of Local Call, where this article was originally published in Hebrew.