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USA Denies Visa to Jewish Knesset Member

...after granting a visa to Iranian President



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Member of the Knesset Michael Ben Ari scratched his withered beard in disbelief. In February 2012, he was denied an entry visa to the USA on the basis of his membership in a terror organization. Shortly before that, he had submitted a request to the US consulate for a visa in order to take part in two conferences, one aimed at encouraging aliyah to Israel (i.e. to encourage US citizens to leave the US). He was told by the American embassy that he cannot be granted the visa since the US State Department prohibits the entrance of people who were involved in terror activities or were members of a terror organization in a foreign country. The embassy didn’t specify which terror organization it was referring to.

“Do Israelis need entry visa to the USA?” an American asked me while I was visiting that country a few years ago.

To his surprise, the answer is positive. An Israeli passport grants “visa-on-arrival” in Europe, parts of Asia, and America, but not to the USA. The latter is worried about creating a loophole allowing an easy entrance to … Palestinians. There are over a million Palestinians with Israeli citizenship; if the USA were to give free entrance, or visa-on-arrival, to Israelis, that would allow also Palestinians to enter. Thus, Israelis wishing to enter the USA need to pass through a quite tedious and bureaucratic process.

Knesset Member Michael Ben Ari

Knesset Member Michael Ben Ari


Ben Who?


Michael Ben Ari is a Knesset member on behalf of the National Union party. This party is a union of four ultra-nationalist political parties, namely Moledet, Hatikva, Eretz Yisrael Shelanu, and Tkuma. In the current Knesset it has four members, out of the 120. Michael Ben Ari is leader of the Eretz Yisrael Shelanu faction. They are right of Netanyahu’s coalition, and do not form part of the current extremist coalition; simply, they are even more extreme.

This is not enough to be classified as member of a terror organization. In 2009, he was arrested after interfering with police attempts to arrest a settler who had been rioting against Palestinians in protest of proposed settlement evacuations. In March 2011, he criticized arrests of settlers who had thrown stones at the police in order to block the service of an arrest warrant, comparing Internal Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch to Muammar Gaddafi and declaring that “his days are numbered.” In 2009, in an open letter to Israeli leaders and politicians, Ben-Ari stated that Pope Benedict XVI’s visit to Israel would be an insult to the memory of Holocaust victims. On June 1, 2009, Ben-Ari was handcuffed and arrested after being involved in an incident near Yitzhar in the West Bank, and despite his parliamentary immunity as Member of Knesset. He climbed onto an army truck and refused to get off, demanding that the Israel Border Police and Israel Defense Forces soldiers explain to him why they had arrested and handcuffed minors at a protest (on Israel Police bestial brutality see Dayan: “Like Pravda;” Mesika: “Police Hallucinates”). Even all these are not enough to designate Ben Ari an Israeli terrorist, as the US State Department has.

This wasn’t the first time he was denied a visa. In November 2009, his US visa application was denied on the grounds of his arrest during anti-disengagement protests in 2005 and his support for Kahanist ideology. This is where this story begins to get clearer. Michael Ben Ari is the first outspoken disciple of Rabbi Meir Kahane to be elected to the Knesset.


Kach Flag

Kach Flag | Michael Ben Ari is the first disciple of Rabbi Meir Kahane


Rabbi Meir Kahane

Rabbi Meir Kahane

Rabbi Meir Kahane was an American-Israeli ultra-nationalist rabbi. Kahane founded both the Jewish Defense League (JDL) in the USA, and the Kach (roughly “This is the Way”), political party in Israel. In 1984, Kach gained one seat in parliamentary elections, and he became a member of the Knesset. In 1988, the Israeli government banned Kach as “racist” and “undemocratic” under the terms of an ad hoc law. In 1994, following the Cave of the Patriarchs massacre perpetrated by Baruch Goldstein, a Kahane follower, Kach was outlawed completely. Following the massacre, the US State Department listed it as a terrorist organization. Kahane was assassinated in a Manhattan hotel by an Arab gunman in November 1990 after Kahane concluded a speech warning American Jews to emigrate to Israel before it was “too late.” Under these circumstances, the intention of his follower Ben Ari to participate in an aliyah conference looks a bit less innocent.


Yet, Reuven Rivlin, Speaker of the Knesset, has already issued a complaint to Daniel Shapiro, US ambassador in Israel. "Mr. Ben Ari is a Knesset member who represents the National Union party, an entirely legitimate party in the Israeli parliament. As a public official in Israel, a close ally of the US, he cannot be recognized as a member of a terror group or be prohibited from visiting the US," Rivlin wrote. I am not so sure of the accuracy of Mr. Rivlin's statement.


Which terror organization are the Americans talking about?


Most probably the link with Kach cost Ben Ari his visa. However there is another possible reason. On October 2009, the UN General Assembly declared Israel as terror inflicting. This is a good enough reference for visa denial to any Israeli, including Michael Ben Ari. Due to the secrecy adopted by the State Department on these issues, we will never know for sure.

There is another fascinating angle to this event. Michael Ben Ari is son of Iranian and Afghani parents. His place of birth is kept secret; but reliable sources told me it is Iran. Of course, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had been granted a visa to the USA in the past. During his visit to the UN General Assembly he gave an unforgettable interview to CNN's Larry King, in which he literally deconstructed American rhetoric brick by brick.

"But I am Iranian too," Michael Ben Ari was heard mumbling while walking along the Knesset corridors.

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