The Knesset passed a bill into law on Monday, March 6, barring supporters of a boycott on Israel from entering the country. The legislation, sponsored by right-wing and centrist coalition lawmakers, prevents foreign nationals who have publicly called for a boycott of Israel or the settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, or who work on behalf of any organization that advocates these measures, from entering the country. The legislation passed its third and final reading with 46 lawmakers voting for and 28 voting against it. The law also applies to supporters of boycotting products from West Bank settlement, based on a legal definition of a boycott of Israel as stipulated in legislation from 2011 that also includes all “areas under its control.”
Leader of the Joint List, MK Ayman Odeh (Hadash), strongly criticized the new legislation, telling the Knesset of his recent participation in the J Street Conference in the United States: “I was in the US two weeks ago, and saw there thousands of Jews who support a boycott of the settlements. These people are not acting against the state but against the occupation. I am against the occupation and for a boycott of the settlements which constitute a war crime and involve theft of land from private individuals. The occupation result in making Israel a leper everywhere.”
MK Dov Khenin (Hadash – Joint List) addressed the Knesset plenum saying: “Who doesn’t oppose a boycott of the settlements nowadays? Look at the UN, at the EU, at what is happening in the international community. Do you want to spurn all of them and refuse them entry into Israel? The whole world thinks the settlements are illegal. You are essentially promoting a move that will strengthen the boycott of Israel” by antagonizing critics of the country’s policies and, in doing so, lead Israel to “isolate itself.”
Jewish Voice for Peace Executive Director Rebecca Vilkomerson responded to the ban saying that “On the same day as the Trump administration signed the second version of an unconstitutional and discriminatory executive order barring visitors from specific Muslim countries, Israel just passed its own discriminatory travel ban barring supporters of nonviolent tactics to end Israel’s violations of Palestinian rights.” She continued: “My grandparents are buried in Israel, my husband and kids are citizens, and I lived there for three years, but this bill would bar me from visiting because of my work in support of Palestinian rights. I’m very proud to support the BDS movement, and hope that the response to this ban will hasten the day when anyone can travel there freely.”
Peace Now said the ban is “neither Jewish nor democratic” and “a clear violation of freedom of expression. Through this law the ‘Bennetyahu’ government will not prevent a boycott, but rather undermine Israel’s international standing and lead Israel towards international isolation.” Americans for Peace Now, a pro-Israeli group opposed to the settlements, warned that the new law would be used to squelch dissenting voices. “This new draconian law is a severe blow to Israeli democracy,” said Chief Executive Debra DeLee in a statement. “It is aimed at basic civil liberty, the freedom of expression, and it will severely harm Israel by keeping out some of its greatest supporters.”
Passage of the law follows two incidents in recent weeks in which Israeli immigration authorities blocked representatives from human rights organizations trying to enter the country.