Israel’s attempt to supress BDS campaigners has come under criticism from the US State Department.
Speaking at a press briefing yesterday, State Department spokesperson, Mark Toner, told reporters that the US “value[d] freedom of expression, even in cases where [we] don’t agree with the political views espoused”.
Despite expressing US opposition to boycotts and sanctions on Israel, Toner’s remark will be viewed as a criticism of new Israeli measures to supress BDS, which includes a bill passed by the Knesset earlier this month that has banned foreign citizens who support boycotts of Israel and the settlements from entering the country.
Toner criticised the draconian steps taken by Israel in response to questions about plans introduced by the Israeli Strategic Affairs Minister, Gilad Erdan, for going after BDS campaigners.
The Israeli Haaretz reported that, Erdan has already set up an intelligence unit to collect information on foreign BDS activists, but also wants to collect information on Israelis involved, and has discussed the matter with officials in other ministries, most prominently the Justice Ministry.
Since the Israeli Knesset approved a law that forbids granting visit, visas or residency rights to foreign nationals who support a boycott of Israel and its settlement policies in a move described as “anti-democratic” by Israeli human rights groups, prominent BDS activists have been banned from the country.