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UK left-wing activist denied entry to Israel

Image of Ben Gurion International Airport in Israel [lleewu/Flickr]
Ben Gurion International Airport in Israel [lleewu/Flickr]

A UK activist has been denied entry to Israel for the second time, despite complying with the country’s travel restrictions.

Twenty-eight-year-old Gary Spedding was yesterday prevented from entering Israel, before being detained at the country’s Ben Gurion airport for five hours, Haaretz reported. He is facing deportation back to the UK.

This is the second time that Spedding has been targeted by the Israeli authorities, having been banned from entering the country for five years in 2014. At the time, the Population and Immigration Authority of Israel’s Interior Ministry cited a “fear of public disturbance” as justification for its decision, claiming that Spedding intended to participate in political activism in the occupied West Bank.

Although Spedding appealed the 2014 decision, Israel upheld the ban and stipulated that, even when the five year period had lapsed, he would be required to arrange any future visit with the Israeli embassy in London in advance of his travel.

READ: US civil rights activist denied award due to support for BDS

Yet although Spedding followed Israel’s instructions when arranging his visit to Israel this week, he was still prevented from entering the country. Spedding and his lawyer, Gaby Lasky, say that “he did in fact apply to the embassy multiple times, and even turned to the Israeli ambassador [to the UK, Mark Regev] himself through a friend who serves as a British parliament member, but never received an answer,” Haaretz explained.

Commenting on the refusal on Facebook, Spedding wrote:

“The main reason for my entry is to meet and catch up with Israeli and Palestinian friends and colleagues. I do not believe that my political views and positions constitute a legitimate reason to deny my entry to Israel […] I wholeheartedly believe in peace, justice and equality for Israelis, Palestinians, Arabs and Jews in this land. It is my hope that this will be recognised.”

“I invite Israeli authorities to respect legitimate democratic activities and process,” he added.

A number of international activists have been banned from entering Israel in the past year, most of whom Israel accused of being members of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement. Spedding, however, is not an advocate of the BDS movement, suggesting that Israel is entering a new phase of denying entry to anyone it deems to be left-wing, pro-Palestinian or an active advocate of peace.

READ: Israel’s war on BDS faces backlash

Israel has effectively waged war against BDS since the Knesset ratified a bill prohibiting foreign citizens who call for a boycott of Israel from entering the country or obtaining work or residency visas. Among those refused entry were Code Pink activist Ariel Gold and Ana Sanchez Mera, who is thought to be affiliated with the BDS National Committee (BNC).

Earlier this week, it emerged that Israel will deport the Director of Human Rights Watch’s regional office, Omar Shakir. The Israeli government claimed that Shakir – who is an American citizen of Iraqi origin – wanted to go to Bahrain to promote a boycott of Israel at the International Federation of Football Association (FIFA) conference in 2017, and that he previously attempted to establish an organisation calling for the boycott of Israel while studying at Stanford University in the US.

The decision against Shakir had previously been postponed pending a response to a petition filed by Palestinian-American student Lara Alqasem. Alqasem was detained at Israel’s Ben Gurion Airport on the grounds that she was active in the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, yet in October the Supreme Court ruled that she would not be deported since the anti-BDS law did not apply to her case.

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