Glenn Greenwald and Israel’s booming anti-Zionism tourism trade

Glenn Greenwald’s ‘Comment is Free’ post on April 13 concerns a bill circulating through the US Congress which would allow Israel into America’s “visa waiver program”, permitting Israel to join with 37 other countries whose citizens are permitted to travel to the US without a visa.  The bill evidently includes a clause which would allow Israel’s entrance into the visa waiver program with the stipulation that Israel won’t have to allow in US citizens who may “jeopardize the security of the State of Israel”, while otherwise ensuring that reciprocal travel privileges are extended to all.

Greenwald’s antagonists in the tale are AIPAC and the bill’s supporters in Congress, who he accuses of prioritizing the interests of Israel over those of US citizens. His protagonists, opposing the bill, include Mike Coogan of the US Campaign to End Israeli Occupation, and Mitchell Plitnick, former Director of the US Office of B’Tselem, 

Greenwald characterizes the bill as “pro-discrimination”, and quotes Ron Kampeas claiming that the clause will allow Israel to continue the ‘practice of routinely refusing to allow Americans of Arab ethnicity or Muslim backgrounds to enter their country’.  However, other than one anecdotal example of a Palestinian-American evidently being denied entrance into Israel, neither Greenwald nor Kampeas cite statistics to demonstrate a pattern of such discrimination, nor explore the question of how many were denied entry for legitimate security reasons.  

Instead, Greenwald cites this passage from a US travel advisory:

Some US citizens holding Israeli nationality, possessing a Palestinian identity card, or of Arab or Muslim origin have experienced significant difficulties in entering or exiting Israel or the West Bank.

Not content with the advisory’s carefully worded message regarding the “difficulties” which “some” US citizens have evidently faced “in entering or exiting Israel or the West Bank”, Greenwald further claims that “Israel also bars those who are critical of Israeli actions or supportive of Palestinian rights“.

Greenwald provides exactly two examples, in the links embedded in the text, to back up his definitive statement that “Israel bars” critics of Israel – a 2008 case involving Norman Finkelstein (which was related to his contact with Hezbollah) and a 2010 case involving Noam Chomsky.

Note that Greenwald didn’t merely claim that “Israel has barred some who are critical of Israeli actions”, or similarly restrained language, but rather suggested a pattern of barring critics of Israel – a claim which is contradicted by, among other factors, the fact Israel is saturated with pro-Palestinian activists (and critical journalists) from other countries.   

“Progressive” tours for foreigners wishing to see Israel through a pro-Palestinian perspective include the following:

  • Alternative Tours: “Operating out of the Jerusalem Hotel (near Damascus Gate), Alternative Tours offers trips in and around Jerusalem as well as to various West Bank cities, including Bethlehem, Jericho, Hebron, Nablus and Qalqiliya. The tours include stops at religious and historical sites and visits with local institutions and people”.

Here’s the image on their home page to get a sense of their priorities:


  • Alternative Tourism Group (ATG): “ATG is a Palestinian NGO that specializes in touring that critically examines the history and politics of The Holy Land.  ATG is founded on the tenets of justice tourism, which are based on the goals of economic benefit for the local population, environmental protection, productive exchanges between host and guest through one-on-one interactions, and political/historical education.  Tours visit Palestinian and Israeli cities and villages, settlements, refugee camps, and/or Bedouin camps, and can include conversations with leading activists and educators, as well as interfaith encounters”.

ATG also explains on their website that foreign tourists will see Israeli ‘Apartheid’ and ‘Colonialism’ first hand.

On ATG’s page with ‘Practical Info‘ for foreign participants, there’s no warning for travellers on restrictions imposed on their entry by Israeli authorities, and the following photo appears on their site, showing a group of ATG participants in a Palestinian village planting olive trees:


  • Breaking the Silence: BtS, active in promoting “war crimes” charges against Israel after the Gaza war in 2009, is “comprised of veteran Israeli soldiers, and leads tours to Hebron as well as to South Hebron Hills”.

Here’s the image on the website of BtS (an Israeli NGO generously funded by the European Union) advertising their Passover tour of Israel.


  • Holy Land Trust: HLT “offers study tours of the West Bank and Israeli cities, including: Ramallah, Jericho, Bethlehem, Beer Sheva, Nazareth, Israeli settlements, and Palestinian refugee camps.  You will have the opportunity to meeting with community leaders, politicians, and activists on both sides of the conflict”.

Registration is now open for Holy Land Trust’s 2013 Summer ‘Palestine Encounter’.  

Evidently, these 2012 participants of the summer ‘encounter’ had no difficulty entering the country:


  • Israeli Committee Against Home Demolitions (ICAHD): ICAHD, an NGO which uses rhetoric including accusations of “ethnic cleansing,” “genocide,” “collective punishment,” and “apartheid” against Israel, “offers tours that trace the separation barrier and the roads and tunnels separating the settlements from Palestinian cities and villages, and visit the sites of demolished homes in East Jerusalem”.  Twice a year, “ICAHD offers an intensive ten-day study trip in which participants have the opportunity to meet people from both sides of the divide and gain in-depth knowledge on the latest analysis of the conflict”. 
Jeff Halper leads an ICAHD Jerusalem Tour

ICAHD director Jeff Halper leads a tour

  • Palestinian Solidarity Project (PSP): “PSP offers “one-day trips focusing on settlement, land confiscation, nonviolent resistance, and prisoner issues in the Beit Ommar area.”

The page at PSP where the following photo of pro-Palestinian activists planting olive trees appears notes that “a group of 25 internationals accompanied by two farmers went to the farm land of Ali Ayad Awad, which lies beside the barrier fence on the north side of Karmie Tzur settlement.”


  • Zochrot: Zochrot is an NGO which promotes the unlimited Palestinian ‘right of return’ and,through tours of destroyed Palestinian villages in Israel (from 1948), aims to introduce the Palestinian Nakba into the collective consciousness.  Tours are led by Palestinian refugees and their families in conjunction with Zochrot staff.”

Zochrot tour in the West Bank


Here are two ISM activists who got past Israeli border control and arrived ‘safely’ at their destination (posing with Palestinian terrorists):


While it’s impossible to know how many of the record 3.5 millions tourists who visited Israel in 2012 (who brought $4.6 billion into the Israeli economy) were anti-Zionist activists, it seems that, contrary to Greenwald’s claims, foreign travelers who are “critical of Israeli actions” or “supportive of Palestinian rights” don’t have too hard of a time gaining entry into the state.  

If there is a concerted effort by Israeli authorities to bar anti-Zionist activists from entering the country, they’re obviously doing a very poor job.

(This post was updated several hours after publication, and an incorrect statistic originally cited was removed. – A.L.)

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19 replies »

  1. GG also failed to mention that the two barred from Israel for security reasons happened to be Jews by birth not Arabs of any nationality, making his entire article as usual bollocks. Me thinks the man protests too much….

    • Breaking the Silence and ICAHD are famous, respected Israeli human rights group, which are supported by Western democracies and known worldwide.

      This is clearly not the case of CIF Watch.

    • Routinely refusing to allow American citizens of Arab ethnicity or Muslim backgrounds to enter Israel automatically disqualifies Israel from joining the US waiver programme.

      • “Nat”!
        FFS, you gave us your word that you wouldn’t be posting here any more!
        Will you also stop sock-puppeting?
        Get out of here, now…

  2. Glenn Greenwald spreads anti-Israeli lies on the Guardian.
    Different day – same shit…

    • Are American citizens of Arab ethnicity or Muslim background routinely denied entry into Israel?

      The State department suggests they are:

      “Security Screening: U.S. citizens are advised that all persons applying for entry to Israel, the West Bank, or Gaza are subject to security and police record checks by the Government of Israel, and may be denied entry or exit without explanation. U.S. citizen visitors have been subjected to prolonged questioning and thorough searches by Israeli authorities upon entry or departure. U.S. citizens whom Israeli authorities suspect of being of Arab, Middle Eastern, or Muslim origin (…) may face additional, often time-consuming, and probing questioning by immigration and border authorities, or may even be denied entry into Israel, the West Bank, or Gaza”

  3. Glenn Greenwald is a master of disinformation. He deliberately slants his pieces to present Israel in the worst possible light. You can’t trust a thing he writes, as a journalist he is a complete disgrace.

  4. Jeff Halper is truly a radical anarchist.
    About 9 years ago, Halper wrote an article about this Jewish Christian Zionist armageddon beliefs.

    Here is what Jeff Halper wrote.

    Jeff Halper
    Mar. 25, 2004
    Sharon has fanned the flames of Holy War between the Judeo-Christian world and Islam, skillfully harnessing for his purposes the Neo-Cons ambition for American Empire and Christian Fundamentalist anticipations of Armageddon.
    Halper also condemned Israel for killing Hamas mass murdered Yassin in 2004.

    Halper was horrified that Israel would kill this Islamo fascist Yassin who ordered thousands of terrorist attacks against Israeli civilians.

    Halper would prefer Palestinian Nazis continue to slaughter Israeli civilians with no response from Israel.

    I just hope Yassin did not die instantly. I hope he felt the pain of his limbs being torn off, just as the hundreds of Jews who had there limbs torn off by homicide bombers.

    The PR shots of Yassin in his wheelchair will be remembered by those that don’t see the crippled bodies of all those that he ordered to be bombed by Hamas.

    Yassin was a mass murderer of the same ilk as Saddam Hussein. Saddam never killed a Kurd he just inspired others to do his dirty work.

    Just to inform Halper terrorism is down 90% since this murderer Yassin was killed.

    This is the terrorist Yassin who Halper supported.
    I pity you.
    Some of the terrorist atrocities Yassin ordered against Israel.
    No32A bus, mainly carrying Israeli school children, Patt junction, Jerusalem 19 dead, 70 injured.
    Sbarro Pizzeria, Jerusalem 15 dead, 130 injured.
    Snooker club, Rishon Letzion 15 dead, 55 injured.
    Student cafeteria, Hebrew University , Jerusalem
    10 dead, 85 injured.
    Park Hotel Passover meal, Netanya 30 dead, 140 injured. Teenagers on pedestrian precinct, Jerusalem bombed by Hamas
    11 dead, 180 injured.
    No2 bus carrying Jewish worshippers back from the Western wall 23 dead, 130 injured.
    Shopping precinct, central Jerusalem (triple suicide bombing) 23 dead, 150 injured.
    Moment café, Jerusalem 11 dead, 54 injured.
    Shopping centre, Netanya 5 dead, 100 injured.
    Matza restaurant, Haifa 15 killed, 40 injured.
    Dolphinarium discotheque, Tel Aviv 21 dead, 120 injured.
    Port facilities, Ashdod 10 dead, 16 injured.
    Petrol station, Ariel 3 dead, 20 injured.
    Beachfront bar, Tel-Aviv 3 dead, 60 injured.
    Hitchhiking post, Tzfirin 9 dead, 30 injured.
    Café Hillel, Jerusalem 7 dead, 50 injured.
    Suicide bombings of Israeli passenger buses Number 11 bus, Haifa – 16 dead.
    Number 960 bus, Haifa – 11 dead.
    Number 361 bus, Meron – 9 dead Number.
    4 bus, Tel-Aviv – 6 dead Number.
    20 bus, Jerusalem – 11 dead.
    No 37 bus, Haifa – 17 dead.
    No 6 bus, Jerusalem – 7 dead.
    No 14A bus, Jerusalem – 17 dead.
    No 18 bus, Jerusalem – (the same bus route attacked on successive weeks) Two buses following each other in Beersheva – 49 dead.

    • Barry: “..Saddam never killed a Kurd…”

      Saddam did kill and so did both his sons.

      He was a sadistic pig.

      On his desk there lay a plaque stating:

      God invented 3 things in an error: Flies, Jews and Persians”.

      Saying this, I do not want to reduce Yassin’s perverted mind. He was an Islamist by all standards, and used his followers to commit atrocities on his behalf, convincing them it is in the name of their faith.

  5. If Jeff Halper want to look at Armageddon, all anyone has to do is go on Palmediawatch
    and see how Hamas and Fatah talk how Israel will be annihilated and how Jews will be burned to death.
    Calls for Genocide Doctrines Have Infiltrated Hamas Ideology
    Jonathan Dahoah-Halevi:
    March 19, 2008
    PA Religious Official Publicly Calls for Genocide of Jews
    PA’s principal religious leader presents the killing of Jews by Muslims as a religious Islamic goal.
    Elad Benari
    Hamas MP: A Palestinian Who Kills One Jew Will Be Rewarded As If He Killed 30 Million
    73% of Palestinians Believe Jews Should Be Killed Wherever They Hide
    Jim Hoft
    July 16, 2011,
    One day after the Ramallah lynching of two Israelis, Ahmad Abu Halabiya, a member of the PA-appointed Fatwa Council, called on listeners to find and butcher Jews “no matter where they are, in any country. Fight them, wherever you are. Wherever you meet them, kill them.”
    Hamas Foreign Minister “Zahar:”After we defeat the Zionists we will persecute them… we will persecute them to eternity”
    May 14, 08
    Dr. Muhammad Ibrahim Madi, a Palestinian Authority religious leader: “We will blow them up in Hadera, we will blow them up in Tel-Aviv”
    “We will blow them up in Hadera, we will blow them up in Tel-Aviv and in Netanya… We will fight against them and rule over them until the Jew will hide behind the trees and stones and the tree and stone will say: ‘Moslem! Servant of Allah, there is a Jew behind me, kill him’. We will enter Jerusalem as conquerors, and Jaffa as conquerors, and Haifa as conquerors and Ashkelon as conquerors….”

    One week after the Dolphinarium bombing on June 1, 2001 in Tel Aviv in which 21 people, mainly young girls, were killed, PA television carried the sermon of Sheik Ibrahim Al-Madhi. He said: “Blessings to whoever waged Jihad for the sake of Allah; blessings to whoever raided for the sake of Allah; blessings to whoever put a belt of explosives on his body or on his sons’ and plunged into the midst of the Jews, crying ‘Allahu Akbar…’

    Following the murderous terrorist attack on Kibbutz Metzer in 2002, the PLO cold-bloodedly stated on its official website, “We will continue to strike in any place, targeting their children as well.” Five innocent Israelis, including a mother and her two little boys, were butchered in that attack, all of them, Fatah said, “Zionist colonizers” killed in a “qualitative operation in the settlement of Metzer.”

    Here’s how the official Palestinian Authority newspaper Al-Hayat al-Jadida headlined its coverage: “Five Israelis killed in an attack on the settlement Metzer.” The report continued, “A Palestinian infiltrated the settlement Metzer and opened fire on the settlers.” It is not well known that the Palestinian press frequently refers to towns in Israel, such as Holon and Kiryat Shmona, as “settlements.” Besides implying that all of Israel is an illegitimate colonial outpost, such references clearly are brought to justify the killings and distinguish them from terrorism.
    After the Tel Aviv massacre on January 12th 2003, where 2 Palestinian homicide bombers massacred 23 Israeli civilians. The PLO web site posted a statement — celebrating the attacks:
    “With faith in the calling of holy jihad,” it said, “two suicide attackers . . . succeeded this evening to infiltrate the Zionist roadblocks and to enter the heart of . . . Tel Aviv and carried out two consecutive suicide attacks… These suicide attacks caused a large number of fatalities and casualties in the center of the Zionist occupation of our land. We swear before our people that additional suicide operations will occur.”
    That is a view with which much of Arab opinion concurs., for example, datelined its story on the Tel Aviv attack “Palestine-Israel,” and reported that the bombings had killed “23 Israeli settlers.”

    Here’s the right link for this.
    One week after the Dolphinarium bombing on June 1, 2001 in Tel Aviv in which 21 people, mainly young girls, were killed, PA television carried the sermon of Sheik Ibrahim Al-Madhi. He said: “Blessings to whoever waged Jihad for the sake of Allah; blessings to whoever raided for the sake of Allah; blessings to whoever put a belt of explosives on his body or on his sons’ and plunged into the midst of the Jews, crying ‘Allahu Akbar…’

  7. Glenn Greenwald is a lazy dishonest hack. He either knew he was writing mere anti-Israel propaganda and ignored the facts about the ‘visa waiver’ program and deliberately chose to distort how he reported matters, or he doesn’t know the facts about the waiver program and was too idle to find out.

    The visa waiver program currently enables citizens of 37 countries to enter the USA without a visa (that is why it is known as the visa waiver program!). For those who might not know, this is a basic outline of how it works:

    A citizen of a country that is in the program wishing to visit the US for a period not exceeding 90 days (the days of arrival and departure are part of the 90 day total) can apply for a visa waiver certificate on-line at their respective US Embassy website on payment of a small administrative fee. (Which is generously refunded if the certificate is refused.)

    This simple procedure which involves passport, personal and security details (one question asks if you’ve ever been arrested) takes only about 15 minutes. If it is a waiver certificate renewal and you have not overstayed in the US or otherwise breached the regulations the certificate will almost always be granted and the applicant can print the certificate out right away, valid for two years.

    The most important condition that attaches to a waiver certificate is that it does not guarantee entry into the US once the holder has arrived and if denied entry there is no right of appeal. The waiver program makes it a condition of issue that the applicant for the certificate has read and understands, and clicks a yes’ button to that effect, that the certificate does not necessarily admit the holder and an Immigration Officer at any US point of entry can refuse to allow entry.

    The agreements already reached under the waiver program are not entirely mirror-images of each other. If a US citizen wishes to visit the UK under the waiver program they are allowed into the UK for a maximum 180 days and have stamped in their passports ‘No entitlement to health care or public assistance’. During these 180 days the visitor is forbidden to work. In contrast a UK citizen visiting the USA is limited to only 90 days and that period cannot be extended by visiting Canada, Mexico or the Caribbean.

    Either Glenn Greenwald knows all this or he doesn’t. Either way the Guardian is an appropriate home for such a wretched scribbler.

  8. I call for a petition to allow Pippa Bartolotti full access rights to Israeli airports – just for the comedy value:

    For those who haven’t seen the clip before: just keep watching what happens behind the reporter. The sort of scene – the visual structure, the timing – that even the best screenwriter would have difficulty conjuring up to such hilarious effect.

  9. Read “Khomeini’s Ghost” by Con Coughlin, Macmillan,2009
    Nobody needs to stoke the Islamic World versus the rest war. It is Moslem doctrine and only low key or unaware in Europe and the US these hundred years because of Western strength – and reconquista of Spain the Balkans and temporarily of the Mediterranean basin south shore.