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Human rights groups slam Israel's travel ban law for supporters of boycott

Image of a BDS rally [McGill Daily/Flickr]
BDS rally [McGill Daily/Flickr]

The new Israeli law barring the Jewish state's boycott supporters from entering the country has provoked a wave of criticism by the human rights groups.

On Monday, Israel's parliament (Knesset) passed into law a bill banning entry into the country to anyone found to support the Boycott of the settlement products, referring to the Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.

The law applies to those who do not hold Israeli citizens or permanent residents, as well as those who are members of organisations that advocate the boycott move.

In a joint statement yesterday, the Legal Centre for Arab Minority Rights in Israel (Adalah) and The Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI), NGOs, said that "we are not sure what was the need for the new law, apart from saying Israel does not want BDS supporters here," describing the law as "blatantly anti-democratic."

Read: Israeli businesses must openly declare settlement boycott

"This law violates the most basic tenets of democracy by making political opinions a consideration that may prevent non-citizens from entering Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT)," the tow rights groups stressed, noting "those seeking to enter the country most certainly need not align their political positions with those of the current Israeli government in regards to the occupation."

"This law is also expected to pose a particularly serious blow to countless Palestinian families living in Israel and in East Jerusalem, whose members hold a temporary residency status or a temporary military-issued permit. These individuals will now be vulnerable to a revocation of their status and permits based upon their political opinions," the groups' statement warned.

Adalah and ACRI had sent a letter to the Knesset members urging them to vote against the bill and stressing that it would infringe upon freedom of expression. "Preventing the entry of an individual into the country does not only harm the freedom of expression of those whose entry has been barred, but also the freedom of expression of Israeli citizens and Palestinian residents of the OPT."

Read: New Israeli law targets anti-apartheid boycott

On his part, the executive director of the prominent Israeli human rights group B'Tselem, Hagai El-Ad, in a press conference on Tuesday said: We think that border control should not be used as thought control.

He noted that Israel also controls who enters the Palestinian territories, apart from through one border crossing into Gaza from Egypt, stressing that the law could "absolutely" affect his group's work.

On a similar topic, Americans for Peace Now, the US branch of Israel's anti-settlement Peace Now group, called the law a "severe blow to Israeli democracy."

The group said its opposition to settlements is rooted in its support for Israel. It believes that Israel's continued occupation of land containing millions of Palestinians threatens the country's Jewish and democratic position, as reported by The Associated Press.

Read: Palestinians call for boycott of Israeli courts

"It would be absurd for the government of Israel to block us from visiting the country we love and care so much about because we chose to express a legitimate view in a legitimate way," the group's president and chief executive, Debra DeLee, said in a statement on Tuesday.

The law follows other recent measures by the Israeli government, which are seen as targeting left-wing NGOs, and human rights groups said it could affect their work.

Israel sees the boycott movement as a strategic threat and accuses it of anti-Semitism — a claim that activists denied, saying they only want to see the occupation end.

Last week, Israel prevented Human Rights Watch Israel and Palestine Director Omar Shakir from entering the country for the second time in less than a month due to his past pro-BDS activism, but on Monday he was allowed into the country.

BDSInternational OrganisationsIsraelMiddle EastNewsPalestine
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