Hadash Knesset member Yousef Jabareen (Joint List) filed a petition with the Supreme Court on Sunday against a decision by the Knesset Ethics Committee barring him from traveling to the United States for a lecture tour at the invitation of and funded by the organization Jewish Voice for Peace. The group appears on the “blacklist” of organizations that support the BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) movement against Israel compiled by the Strategic Affairs Ministry.
In January, the Ethics Committee approved an amendment to its rules that makes it possible to prevent organizations calling for a boycott against Israel or the settlements from funding MKs’ trips abroad for participation in conferences or other events. The amendment to the rules allows the Ethics Committee to “consider withholding approval” of the funding of such a trip. The amendment does not prevent MKs from participating in any such events, only to accept funding for them.
Ethics Committee Chairman Yitzhak Vaknin (Shas) said last month that committee members had asked the Strategic Affairs Ministry for more information on Jewish Voice for Peace. A response given by far-right Public Security and Strategic Affairs Minister Gilad Erdan noted that the organization “is currently considered one of the leading boycott organizations in the United States, declaring its support for BDS as a nonviolent tool that will compel the State of Israel to change its policy and relinquish ‘the occupied territories.’”
The petition was filed on Jabareen’s behalf by lawyers from Adalah – The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, and states that the new ethics rules limit freedom of political expression and freedom of movement of MKs. In addition, it characterizes the Ethics Committee’s decision as an attempt to prevent Jabareen’s participation in events that are clearly related to his activities as a member of Knesset. “This limitation does not derive from the fact that there is in his expressions or actions any ethical or criminal violation, or because of the existence of any ban on a Knesset member to be in contact with the organization financing [the events],” states the petition. “It only stems from the body that is funding the trip having a certain political position toward the policy of the government of Israel, and it is numbered among those calling for a boycott of the State of Israel in order to put an end to the occupation of the 1967 territories.”