Israel has refused entry to a foreign national for the first time for alleged activism in the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.
Renowned theologian, Dr Isabel Phiri, who is an assistant general secretary with the World Council of Churches in Geneva, was refused entry by Israeli officials after landing at Ben-Gurion Airport holding a tourist visa yesterday.
It’s quite common for Israel to refuse Palestinian activists in the BDS movement from entering the country but this is the first time a high profile foreign official has been denied entry on what media reports claim to be allegations of BDS activism.
Israel has increased pressure on BDS activists following its growing international support. Activists have succeeded in forcing major firms like Veolia, Orange and G4S to downscale their operations in Israel.
A number of Israeli politicians cite BDS as an “existential threat” and pushed for draconian measures in targeting activists. There is currently a bill passing through the Israeli Knesset to prevent foreign supporters of the BDS movement from entering country.
Earlier this year, Omar Barghouti, one of the movement’s co-founders, who is married to an Israeli citizen of Palestinian origin, was banned from leaving the country for a speaking tour.
In a statement reported by the Guardian, Israel’s interior Minister commenting on the case said: “Granting an entry permit to activists such as Phiri would in effect reinforce the wrongful activities she and her peers are advancing and I have no intention of lending a hand to that. I will use any authority at my disposal to avert harm to Israel.”