Israel yesterday banned prominent Spanish BDS activist Ana Sanchez Mera from entering the country, accusing her of aiming "to cause great damage to Israel".
The ban came at the behest of two high-profile members of Israel's establishment, Interior Minister Aryeh Deri and Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan. In a statement Deri said: "I once again exercised my authority and prevented the entry of a boycott activist who wanted to enter Israel and act against the state. This is a senior activist in a prominent boycott organisation that aims to cause great damage to Israel."
He added "people who come to Israel to encourage boycotts will not be allowed to enter," Times of Israel reported.
Activist Sanchez Mera is believed to be affiliated with the BDS National Committee (BNC), the Palestinian coordinating body for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign worldwide. She reportedly backed a decision in Spain's parliament to defend boycotts of Israel and has led a number of demonstrations by the BNC in Spain, Arutz Sheva reported.
The decision to bar Sanchez Mera is almost identical to the case of prominent American-Jewish activist Ariel Gold, who was also denied entry into Israel earlier this month. Upon landing at Israel's Ben Gurion Airport, Gold was detained and questioned for several hours and eventually refused entry, despite holding a student visa. As in the case of Sanchez Mera, Israel's Public Security Minister Erdan was directly involved in barring the activist, saying "whoever acts for a boycott of Israel and comes here to cause damage will not enter the country."
The barring of prominent activists has been seen as part of Israel's broader crackdown on supporters of the BDS movement. In May 2017, Israel introduced a law forbidding entry visas or residency rights to foreign nationals who call for economic, cultural or academic boycotts of Israel or illegal Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank.
In January 2018, Israel published a "blacklist" of 22 international NGOs "whose employees and/or members are banned from entering Israel due to their alleged support of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign." General Director of Adalah – The Legal Centre for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, Hassan Jabareen, described the move as "reminiscent of South Africa's apartheid regime."
The Israeli government has also attempted to label the BDS movement "terrorism", with Erdan saying in June "the perpetrators of this hate-filled campaign […] are united in their goal of attacking Israel, and are leaving no stone unturned in their efforts."
Support for BDS in Spain has grown in recent months, with the council of Valencia opting to join the movement in June. Following the Israeli assault on Palestinian protesters during the Great March of Return, leader of the Podemos party, Iglesias Turrión, said: "We need to act more firmly on a criminal country like Israel." Two days later, a municipality in Valencia also joined the movement, stressing that "Israel is required to put an end to the occupation and remove the discriminatory wall in accordance with the resolution 242 of the United Nations Security Council." Approximately 60 Spanish cities have become affiliated with BDS in the past two years.