The Guardian published an article about an Australian man who is barred from leaving Israel until he pays his outstanding child support. The story, which originated in Australia, has been widely covered, in part because the man, Noam Huppert, 44, is barred from leaving the country for life, which, due to the fact that it’s the highest possible date on computers, is set at the year 9999.
The piece, by Jerusalem correspondent Bethan McKernan, (“Australian man ‘cannot leave Israel for 8,000 years’ over unpaid child support”, Dec. 28) describes the man’s plight:
An Australian national living in Israel has said he is subject to an 8,000-year travel ban unless he pays an outstanding £1.8m in child support payments.
Noam Huppert, an analytical chemist…is not allowed to leave Israel until 31 December 9999 owing to a 2013 “stay of exit” order handed down after a family court case was brought by his ex-wife, according to news.com.au.
The court ruled Huppert must pay 5,000 shekels (£1,200) a month for each of his two children until they turn 18…
Huppert’s former spouse, an Israeli national, moved back to the country in 2011, when their children were aged three months and five years old. He followed in 2012, and says he has not been able to leave for any reason – including work – in the eight years since the court ruling.
“Since 2013, I am locked in Israel,” Huppert told news.com.au, adding that he was one of many foreign nationals “persecuted by the Israeli ‘justice’ system only because they were married to Israeli women”…
In its travel advice for Israel, the US state department includes a warning to citizens that Israel’s…courts “exercise their authority to bar certain individuals, including non-residents, from leaving the country until debts or other legal claims against them are resolved”.
Whilst the question over whether or not the Israeli court decision is just is, of course, far outside the scope of this blog, the Guardian’s coverage of the story is noteworthy for two reasons.
First, as is so often the case with media criticism of Israel, the journalist evidently failed to explore a basic question: Are such laws unique to Israel? This is especially relevant in that, based on the quote by the US State Department cited in the paragraph above, readers would likely come away believing that such measures preventing fathers who owe child support from leaving a country are unheard of in other democratic states.
However, similar restrictions exists in the United States, where “if you owe $2,500 or more in child support, you are not eligible to receive a U.S. passport”. This means that you’re not eligible to receive a first passport, or to renew an existing passport, if you owe $2,500 or more in support. In some situations, an existing US passport can even be revoked.
In certain situations, the failure to pay child support can lead to prison time.
In the UK as well, in certain situations, a father who owes child support and refuses to pay can have his British passport revoked.
Now, to the second element of the Guardian story that illustrates their broader bias against Israel: As the overwhelming majority of situations in where one parent has custody of children, and is attempting to get child support, the single parent with custody is the mother, the issue of child support has typically been seen through the prism of women’s rights – and, of course, children’s welfare. In fact, the 1996 US bill in question was, in part, an effort to reduce poverty rates for women.
The fact that McKernan chose to cover this story, emphasizing its most sensational elements whilst failing to compare how Israeli laws forcing men to pay child support to their ex-wives compare with laws in other countries, again shows how, even when Jerusalem adopts policies likely to be framed as ‘progressive’ in other contexts, the Guardian manages to twist the story in a way imputing maximum malice to the Jewish state.