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Church group official denies Israeli ban was due to BDS activism

The World Council of Churches Central Committee meeting [file photo]
The World Council of Churches Central Committee meeting [file photo]

The World Council of Churches has denied reports that its executive member, who was stopped from entering Israel, was denied on the basis that she is a Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) activist.

Israel interrogated and deported Dr Isabel Apawo Phiri, a Malawi citizen who serves as the council’s associate general secretary, after she arrived in Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion International Airport on Monday.

Media sources said the decision was made on the basis that Phiri was a BDS member and she was sent back to Germany, where she had started her journey from.

However, the WCC said: “The accusations made against the WCC and the EAPPI programme in the interrogation of Dr Phiri and published in the media today are completely false,” WCC General Secretary Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit. “I am very surprised and dismayed that the Israeli Ministry of Interior is apparently basing its decisions on incorrect and unreliable sources.”

The organisation adding that the reason given for Phiri’s deportation was “prevention of illegal immigration considerations.”

In a statement issued on Tuesday, the World Council of Churches said the decision to deny Phiri entry to Israel was “an unprecedented move”.

“Phiri was travelling to attend consultations with church leaders in Jerusalem on the Ecumenical Accompaniment Program in Palestine, one of the many programs and activities supported by the WCC globally.”

Phiri resides in Geneva, Switzerland, where she has served as associate general secretary with responsibility for Public Witness and Diakonia at the offices of the WCC since August 2012.

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