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Israel bars Arab MPs from speaking engagements abroad, as part of BDS crackdown

MK Yousef Jabareen, one of the participants in the advocacy mission in Brussels [רדיומן -/Wikipedia]
Knesset Member Yousef Jabareen [רדיומן -/Wikipedia]

For the first time, the Knesset Ethics Committee has banned parliamentarians from traveling abroad on a trip paid for by groups supportive of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.

Joint List MK Yousef Jabareen had been invited to conduct a US speaking tour hosted by Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), which backs BDS. MK Haneen Zoabi, meanwhile, Jabareen’s Joint List colleague, is invited to a conference organised by Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign (IPSC).

Both JVP and IPSC appeared on a BDS “blacklist” compiled by Israel’s Strategic Affairs Ministry, which oversees the Israeli state’s battle against the boycott.

According to reports, Jabareen was invited by JVP “for a planned week of speeches in late April at universities, think tanks and public events across the East Coast, including a proposed briefing on Capitol Hill, where he was scheduled to speak about the deterioration of democracy in Israel.”

Read: US university demands Palestinian academic not criticise Israel in speech

“We are deeply disappointed that MK Yousef Jabareen won’t be able to join us in the US due to the Knesset decision to effectively block his travel”, said JVP executive director Rebecca Vilkomerson.

“We were very much looking forward to learning from his experience as an MK and his leadership on issues of democracy and equality in Israel. This decision is sad evidence of the further deterioration of Israeli democratic standards,” she continued.

Jabareen, who is reportedly set to appeal the decision to the Israeli Supreme Court, described the “travel ban” as “a serious blow to my freedom in my political activity as a Knesset member”.

“Without funding from the group inviting me I obviously won’t be able to travel to the US due to the high costs. Participating in conferences and giving speeches is a significant part of my job as an elected official, and it is unthinkable that I be prevented from doing that job.”

Strategic Affairs Minister Gilad Erdan, meanwhile, praised the decision. “It is unacceptable for a Knesset member in Israel to lend a hand to the boycott organisations,” he said.

In January, “the Knesset House Committee called on the Ethics Committee to consider barring Knesset members from undertaking travel funded by groups on the Strategic Affairs Ministry list.”

Read: Cambridge university apologies for removing Palestinian chair of BDS event

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