New Law Bars Foreign Critics From Entering Israel

Israel's parliament has stepped up its battle against critics by passing a law Monday night that would bar entry to foreign activists who support an international boycott movement against the Jewish state. The measure drew fierce criticism even from Israelis who oppose their own country's occupation of the West Bank.

Pro-Israel Activists
Pro-settlement activists lay on the floor inside a synagogue during the second day of an operation by Israeli forces to evict settlers from the illegal outpost of Amona in the occupied West Bank, February 2, 2017. |

The new law targets any activist "who knowingly issues a public call to boycotting Israel that, given the content of the call and the circumstances in which it was issued, has a reasonable possibility of leading to the imposition of a boycott — if the issuer was aware of this possibility."

The ban is seen as a measure to contain the spreading influence of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement which has gained thousands of supporters around the world. Its leaders claim to promote a nonviolent struggle for Palestinian independence by lobbying corporations, artists and academic institutions to sever ties with Israel.

But Israeli politicians contend that the campaign goes beyond fighting the occupation of Palestinian territories by seeking to delegitimize the Jewish state. Naftali Bennett, who leads the pro-settlement Jewish Home party, told New York Times that the law allows Israel to defend against those "who wish it harm."

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office updated its travel advisory that states the new law allowed authorities to "deny entry to foreign nationals who have publicly called for a boycott of Israel or who belong to an organization which has called for a boycott." It also warns that all arrivals at Tel Aviv's Ben Gurion Airport should expect lengthy questioning and searches that can result in a restricted visa or 10-year travel ban.

Oded Feller, head of the legal department at the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, told the Associated Press that travelers should expect questions about their Palestinian contacts and give over their Facebook account details so authorities can search for their friends list, communications, comments and event history.

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