Israel Bars Entry to Groups Promoting BDS Movement

Israel’s Strategic Affairs Ministry published on Sunday, January 7, a list of organizations whose activists will be barred from entering the country and the Palestinian territories. The so-called “BDS Blacklist” includes some 20 organizations that will not be allowed to enter the country due to their support for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel. The enumerated organizations are primarily from Europe and the US, but are also from Latin America, a group from South Africa and an international umbrella organization.

The American Friends Service Committee, a Quaker organization honored with the 1947 Nobel Peace Prize for assisting and rescuing victims of the Nazis, is among the list of groups whose activists Israel has announced it will bar from entering Israel and the Palestinian territories.

The flag of the French organization Association France Palestine Solidarité, one of the 20 organizations barred from entering Israel and the Palestinian territories

The flag of the French organization Association France Palestine Solidarité, one of the 20 organizations barred from entering Israel and the Palestinian territories (Photo: AFPS)

“We have shifted from defense to offense,” announced Strategic Affairs Minister Gilad Erdan. “The boycott organizations need to know that the State of Israel will act against them and not allow [them] to enter its territory to harm its citizens.” Erdan added that “No country would have allowed critics coming to harm the country to entry it.”

New Israel Fund CEO Daniel Sokatch said in response “banning political opposition is the policy of autocracies, not democracies,” adding that “our position is principled: We do not support the BDS movement. We oppose the government’s travel ban and all its actions to punish those with whom it disagrees.”

On instructions from Erdan, several individuals have already been denied entry into Israel over their support for BDS. Isabel Phiri, a citizen of Malawi living in Switzerland who is a senior official of the World Council of Churches, was put on a return flight after she disembarked at Ben-Gurion International Airport in December 2016. The Interior Ministry’s Population and Immigration Authority said that this was “actually the first time that the State of Israel was clearly refusing entry to a tourist based on anti-Israel activity and promoting economic, cultural and academic boycotts against it.”

For months, the Strategic Affairs Ministry has refused to divulge which organizations are on the list. However, a joint team from the Strategic Affairs and Interior ministries had previously determined the parameters that serve as a basis for barring activists from entering the country.

Those who hold senior or important positions in blacklisted organizations will be denied entry, as well as key activists, even if they hold no official position. Mayors and establishment figures who actively and continually promote boycotts will also be prevented from entering, as will activists who reach Israel on behalf of or as part of a delegation initiated by one of blacklisted groups.

Critics of the legislation zeroed in on the ban of Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), a left-wing Jewish organization that advocates the boycott as a nonviolent means of ending Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories while seeking “security and self-determination for Israelis and Palestinians” and a solution for Palestinian refugees.

“A new crack in the wall of the occupation,” tweeted Hadash MK Ayman Odeh, leader of the Joint List. “Minister Erdan has decided to ban Jewish activists who oppose the occupation, although they are entitled to Israeli citizenship by the discriminatory law of return. Oppressive regimes have collapsed because of such internal contradiction.”

Rebecca Vilkomerson, Executive Director of JVP, said in response to the release of the “BDS Blacklist”: “Many JVP members, including me, have family and friends in Israel/Palestine. Now, contrary to any democratic norm, there is to be a political litmus test for entering the country. Yet as we at JVP are now feeling the pain of exclusion, we are very aware that Palestinians have always faced profiling and bans on entry to Israel. From the right of return for refugees to the simple ability to travel from one town to another, travel restrictions are a core feature of the Israeli apartheid state. ”

“The Israeli government sees the same thing you and I do: increasing numbers of Jews and all people worldwide support the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement, and support Palestinian human rights. In addition, it terrifies them. I have to believe that the public naming of JVP on this list signals the fundamental weakness of the repressive, right-wing movement in Israel. They see the global BDS movement gaining momentum and they are pulling out all the stops. JVP members will continue fighting for justice, equality, and freedom for all people in Israel/Palestine. We will not back down,” she said.

Following is the list of organizations officially banned from entering Israel and the Palestinian territories:

European organizations

  • France Association Palestine Solidarity – Association France Palestine Solidarité (AFPS)
  • BDS France
  • BDS Italy
  • European Coordination of Committees and Associations for Palestine
  • Friends of Al-Aqsa
  • Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign
  • Palestine Committee of Norway
  • Palestine Solidarity Association of Sweden
  • Palestine Solidarity Campaign
  • War on Want
  • BDS Kampagne

US organizations

  • American Friends Service Committee
  • American Muslims for Palestine
  • Code Pink
  • Jewish Voice for Peace
  • National Students for Justice in Palestine
  • US Campaign for Palestinian Rights

Other groups

  • BDS Chile
  • BDS South Africa
  • BDS National Committee