From The National
Dustin Pfundheller, 30, an American dentist living in Singapore, was set to become the youngest person to visit every country in the world while in a full-time job. His globetrotting has taken him to 192 of the 193 recognized states, bringing his medical skills to the world's remotest places. But in January he was barred for the second time from Israel, the only country left on his list, having previously been refused entry last year.
Despite an invitation to a dental conference in Tel Aviv, and Israelis who vouched for him, border officials banned Mr Pfundheller for 10 years. No reason was given, but lawyers suspect visits to Iran and the Arab states sealed his fate. There could hardly be starker evidence that Israel stubbornly refuses to become a normal country.
Paradoxically, Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited Singapore last month to promote Israel as a tolerant country, one "committed to a better world, a world of diversity."
The reality could not be more different. Arabs and Muslims have always struggled to gain entry to Israel. Palestinians are routinely abused at the borders, and thousands, especially from Jerusalem, have been stripped of the right to return home after living abroad.
But new figures show Israel is excluding other groups too. Entry denials have increased nine-fold in the past five years, topping 16,000 people last year. Among those increasingly turned away are political activists. Israel controls all access to the occupied Palestinian territories, and now regularly denies entry to solidarity activists and those who support the boycott movement.
But in practice the net is cast wider still. Recently, Israel subjected Jennifer Gorovitz, an American Jewish vice-president of the New Israel Fund, to a humiliating interrogation at airport arrivals. NIF is one of the largest funders of Israeli organizations supporting human rights and social justice. That includes assistance to groups that monitor military abuses in the occupied territories. This presumably explains why Ms Gorovitz's interrogators suggested she posed a "security threat." She finally gained admittance only after Talia Sasson, the Israeli head of NIF, pulled strings.
Ms Gorovitz wrote of her experience: "My privilege as a Jew means I never imagined that Israel could or would deny me entrance."
Such an assumption was justified. Israel's Law of Return is supposed to guarantee Jews around the world the right to almost instant citizenship in Israel.
For that reason, the law is grossly unjust. It privileges Jewish access to Israel at the expense of the native Palestinian population, most of whom were expelled in 1948.