Israel issues travel ban on 20 non-government organizations over pro-Palestinian boycotts

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

On Sunday, Israel's Ministry of Strategic Affairs published a list of 20 specific non-government organizations (NGOs) now forbidden to enter the country. These organizations were associated with the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement (BDS), which supports boycotts of Israel as a state and other actions as a means of protesting Israel's treatment of Palestine.

"Forming the list is another step in our struggle against the incitement and lies of the boycott organizations, and no state would allow visitors who come to harm the state to enter it, and certainly with the goal of destroying Israel as a Jewish state," Minister of Strategic Affairs Gilad Erdan told the press.

The proscribed organizations include the BDS organizations from France, Italy, Chile, and South Africa, BDS national committee, and BDS Kampagne; the France Association Palestine Solidarity, the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign, the European Coordination of Committees and Associations for Palestine, Friends of Al-Aqsa, the Palestine Committee of Norway, War on Want, Palestine Solidarity Campaign, and the Palestine Solidarity Association of Sweden from Europe; and American Muslims for Palestine, U.S. Campaign for Palestinian Rights, National Students for Justice in Palestine, Code Pink, Jewish Voice for Peace, and the American Friends Service Committee from the United States. "Friends" is another name for the Quakers, a Christian sect with egalitarianism as a central tenet. Officials from these organizations and any activist known to be associated may be barred from entering Israel. Other public figures who advocate boycotts of Israel, such as the mayors of towns, may also be denied entry. The American Friends Service Committee was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1947 for its work helping refugees displaced by World War II; principally, noted Israeli newspaper Haaretz, families of Jewish refugees married to non-Jews.

"For me as a Palestinian, it means a lot that they are going to ban me from going to see my family and people. It is absolutely horrible," said Fatin al-Tamimi, head of the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign.

Israeli Minister of the Interior Arye Derry issued a statement: "These people are trying to exploit the law and our hospitality to act against Israel and to defame the country. I will act against this by every means."

Rebecca Vilkomerson, executive director of one of the listed groups, Jewish Voice for Peace, responded on Facebook, "As someone with considerable family in Israel, this policy will be a personal hardship. But I am also heartened by this indicator of the BDS movement's growing strength, and 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."

Human rights groups sharply criticized the prohibition as opposing free speech.