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 The War in Context
   alternative perspectives on the "war on terrorism"


Ambassadors of ill will
Gideon Levy, Ha'aretz, April 28, 2002

No one in Israel has ever heard of Anna Danielsson, Yvonne Fredriksson, Lars Jerdoen or Margareta Sjoedberg. But last week, in their country of Sweden, there was hardly a television program that did not tell the story of the four - two of whom are physicians - and how they were rudely locked up and then deported in disgrace from Israel without even being permitted to contact the Swedish consulate.

The four, who belong to the Palestinian Solidarity Association in Sweden, came to Israel with the intention of proffering medical aid. No harm of any kind would have befallen Israel if the authorities had allowed them to do just that. A Japanese physician, Toshi Insushima, who arrived at Ben-Gurion International Airport with a similar purpose, documented his expulsion in a letter he sent to his colleagues in the Physicians for Human Rights group: "I am sorry I did not succeed in entering Israel; I wanted to help you. I will not try again." A group of physicians from the School of Public Health at the University of Brussels encountered a similar fate here. And a delegation from Doctors of the World, which has been in Israel for some time, would also have been thrown out were it not for intervention at a senior level.

As though the brutal images being broadcast around the world from the occupied territories were not enough, these acts of expulsion are adding more fuel to the flames of criticism of Israeli policy. The order issued by Interior Minister Eli Yishai (Shas) to prevent the entry into Israel of anyone suspected of being a supporter of the Palestinians is being carried out in full and to the letter; and it is creating a growing number of ambassadors of ill will.

With the thought police at the airport, even the few who still turn up are compelled to convince the officials of the Interior Ministry that they are lovers of Zion and answer an embarrassing volley of questions. So the interior minister, who represents a party known for its enlightened approach and its openness to the world, becomes a destructive factor in Israel's foreign relations. Now Israel is not only demolishing houses in Jenin with the occupants inside, it is also throwing out guests who don't agree with its policies. This is not the behavior one expects from an open country that takes pride in being a democracy. The amazing thing is that no one here seems to care what impression we create, otherwise it is difficult to understand the expulsion policy.

The ability to shape Israel's image as an enlightened and open state is an asset that is no less important than the arrest of another dozen wanted individuals. Israel's current image as a country that is closing itself off to the world and is lashing out at its critics while throwing out its guests is harmful to its own interests. The only benefit is that we get to return to that familiar and beloved niche called: "The whole world is against us."
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September 11 and the declaration of a "war on terrorism," has forced Americans to look at the World in a new light. No one can afford any longer to define the limits of their concerns by refusing to look beyond this nation's borders. If the freedom that every American cherishes, is not to become a freedom bound within a fortress, then every American will need to understand and respect the needs and concerns of the rest of the World. To this end, The War in Context invites anyone with interest and an open mind to listen to the critical discourse in which the policies and actions of the Bush administration are now being questioned. This debate, which is engaging inquiring minds inside and outside America, will hopefully inform the development of a sustainable new world order - a world order in which America is as much shaped by the World as is the World shaped by America.