Israel bans seven U.S. Jews from entering country

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JERUSALEM — Israel has banned seven American Jews, including Rabbi Abraham Hecht of New York, from entering the country on the grounds that they pose a threat to public order and national security.

Hecht declared last summer that Jewish law permitted the assassination of Israeli leaders who endangered Jewish lives by giving away land to secure peace.

Wednesday's move by Israel's Interior Ministry appeared to be pre-emptive and came in an atmosphere of high political tension in the wake of the Nov. 4 assassination of Yitzhak Rabin.

After the killing, the ministry announced that it would bar entry to activists in extremist groups that support violent actions and are outlawed in Israel.

The decision was based on provisions in the Law of Return, which governs the right of Jews to immigrate to Israel and bans those who pose a national security threat.

One American was denied permission to enter last month on that basis.

A ministry statement issued Wednesday said that four of the others barred from entering Israel had been linked to planned illegal activities in Israel.

It said one supported banned extremist groups in Israel and another was an activist with the Jewish Defense League, founded by the late extremist Rabbi Meir Kahane.

Among the four allegedly linked to illegal activities were Marc Bluestein and Howard Friedman, both of Philadelphia.

Longtime members of the JDL, they were arrested and detained in Israel in December 1993 on the suspicion of conspiring to carry out attacks against Arabs and arms smuggling.

The ministry statement identified the others allegedly connected to planned illegal activities as Bluestein's brother, Hal Bluestein, also of Philadelphia, and Michelle Benveniste.

It said George Mostanza, a JDL activist from New York, was also denied entry, as was Bezahd Cohen of Los Angeles, on allegedly supporting banned extremist organizations.

It was not immediately clear whether any of the seven had sought to enter Israel recently.

In New York, Gad Ben-Ari, head of the Jewish Agency's delegation in North America, said "There is a common denominator" to those barred entry.

"All of these people," including Hecht, "have engaged in incitement against Israel and Israeli democracy and in preaching racism and violence," Ben-Ari said.

"It's a very important decision," he added. Those who have engaged in campaigns "to discredit government authority and democratic structures should know very well that the minimum price they will have to pay is they will not be allowed to enter Israel."

Hecht apologized to Rabin for his pronouncements a few weeks before the assassination.

Last month, the board of his synagogue, Congregation Shaare Zion in Brooklyn, N.Y., voted to suspend him.