Israel bans entry for 20 groups over BDS support
Israel’s strategic affairs ministry publishes a list of 20 international groups banned from entering the country.
Bethlehem, occupied West Bank – Israel has published a list of 20 international groups whose members will be barred from entering the country due to their support for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.
The so-called blacklist, which was released on Sunday by Israel’s strategic affairs ministry, includes organisations based in a number of European countries, as well as the United States, Chile and South Africa.
The BDS movement is a Palestinian-led nonviolent campaign launched more than a decade ago seeking to end Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories. It demands equal rights for Palestinians by putting pressure on the Israeli government via economic and cultural boycotts.
Israel has long tried to to squash the movement, and Sunday’s move is seen as a continuation of a March 2017 decision to amend its entry law, permitting Israeli authorities to bar entrance to activists who promote the boycott of Israel or its illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank.
Gilad Erdan, Israel’s strategic affairs minister, called the newly-published BDS registry “another step in our work to thwart anti-Israel boycott organisations”.
According to Israel’s ministry of strategic affairs, the banned groups are:
AFPS (The Association France Palestine Solidarite)
ECCP (The European Coordination of Committees and Associations for Palestine)
FOA (Friends of Al Aqsa)
IPSC (Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign)
Norge Palestinakomitee (The Palestine Committee of Norway)
Palestinagrupperna i Sverige (PGS- Palestine Solidarity Association in Sweden)
PSC (Palestine Solidarity Campaign)
War on Want
AFSC (American Friends Service Committee)
AMP (American Muslims for Palestine)
JVP (Jewish Voice for Peace)
NSJP (National Students for Justice in Palestine)
USCPR (US Campaign for Palestinian Rights)
BNC (BDS National Committee)
BDS South Africa
“The State of Israel will actively prevent such groups from spreading their falsehoods and odious methods from within the country,” he said in a statement on Sunday.
‘A tactic to silence people’
Israel’s move elicited a variety of responses from the targeted groups, with some expressing disappointment and condemnation, and others hailing it as a “clear victory” for the BDS movement.
Shamiul Joarder, head of public affairs at Friends of Al Aqsa (FOA), one of the banned groups, said the list was evidence that “BDS is working”.
“Israel sees this as a deterrent, but I think that people will be even more dedicated to the cause,” he told Al Jazeera, adding that such policies could end up having positive effects for the movement.
Calling the move “a tactic to silence people”, Joarder said the list was meant to “intimidate our supporters and members” and to “scare people from being active and resisting the occupation”.
Also included in the list is the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), a group that won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1947 partly for its work rescuing and providing relief to Jews during the Holocaust.
Responding to the ban, the AFSC said in a statement that it had been supporting nonviolent resistance for more than 100 years -and had no plans of stopping now.
“We answered the call for divestment from apartheid South Africa and we have done the same with the call for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions from Palestinians who have faced decades of human rights violations,” said Kerri Kennedy, AFSC’s associate general-secretary for international programmes.
“We will continue to stand up for peace and justice in Israel, occupied Palestine, and around the world.”
‘We will not be bullied’
A spokesperson for Israel’s ministry of strategic affairs told Al Jazeera that the list did not represent a “blanket ban” on all members of the organisations, but the entry of their members would be considered on a “case by case basis”.
Those who would be banned, the spokesperson said, were “the main activists who have demonstrated ongoing, consistent and significant action to promote and advance the boycott of Israel”.
The spokesperson added that an inter-ministerial committee was “working out the criteria” that would necessitate barring an activist’s entry into Israel.
But activists said the new policy represented a “broader crackdown” on nonviolent Palestinian rights movements aimed at holding Israel accountable to international law.
Rebecca Vilkomerson, executive director of Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), which was also included in the list, said Israel’s move was “disconcerting but not surprising”.
“We will not be bullied by these attempts to punish us for a principled political stance that increasing numbers of Jews and non-jews support worldwide,” she said in a statement, while noting Israel’s “erosion of democratic norms” and its “rising anxiety about the power of BDS as a tool to demand freedom”.
Ahmad Tibi, a member of the Arab Joint List, a coalition of parties representing Palestinian citizens of Israel in the Knesset, said it was ironic that Israel – a self-proclaimed “Jewish state” – is permitting figures such as Austrian far-right leader Hans-Christian Strache to visit the country while banning the members of JVP.
“You cannot ban groups who are against settlements, occupation and apartheid and still call yourself a democracy,” Tibi told Al Jazeera.
As for Vilkomerson, who has family in Israel, the ban would be a “personal hardship”.
She was quick to add, however, that she was “heartened” by the fact that it signaled “the BDS movement’s growing strength”.
“[I] hope that it will bring the day closer when just as I go to visit my friends and family in Israel, so will Palestinian friends and colleagues be able to return home,” she said.