UK’s Corbyn could be barred from Israel by new anti-BDS law
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UK’s Corbyn could be barred from Israel by new anti-BDS law

Legislation may potentially block Labour leader, who supports limited boycott of Israel, from entering, but Israeli officials say it likely wouldn't be used

Britain's opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn joins on April 26, 2016. (AFP PHOTO / BEN STANSALL)
Britain's opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn joins on April 26, 2016. (AFP PHOTO / BEN STANSALL)

UK Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn could be blocked from visiting Israel under new legislation which bars supporters of a boycott on Israel from entering the country.

The legislation, passed on Monday and backed by right-wing and centrist coalition lawmakers, prevents foreign nationals who have publicly called for a boycott of the Jewish state or work on behalf of an organization that advocates such measures from entering Israel.

Corbyn supports “targeted” boycotts of the Jewish state.

A Labour spokesman, responding to the new legislation, told British media outlets that Corbyn was not in favor of a full boycott of Israel, but did support a more limited boycott.

“Jeremy is not in favor of the academic or cultural boycott of Israel or a blanket boycott of Israeli goods,” the spokesman said. Corbyn “does support targeted boycotts aimed at undermining the existence of illegal settlements in occupied territory. Barring people on the basis of this widely-held position would be clearly wrong.”

Jeremy Corbyn Speaks at a rally for Gaza in Hyde Park, London August 8, 2014. (Screen capture: YouTube)
Jeremy Corbyn Speaks at a rally for Gaza in Hyde Park, London August 8, 2014. (Screen capture: YouTube)

In the past the Labour Party leader has also called for the British government to bar Israeli politicians from visiting the UK.

Writing to then-foreign secretary William Hague in February 2013, Corbyn wrote that he had just returned from a visit to the Gaza Strip, during which he was asked if Britain “would stop allowing Israel’s criminal politicians to come to our country,” ensure that the BBC “portray Palestine fairly,” and work “to end the siege” of Gaza.

“Had I not been working on three of these goals I’d have hung my head in shame,” Corbyn wrote at the time. “There was no possible explanation I could give as to why our government had made no progress in support of such crucial aims.”

Israeli officials told The Daily Telegraph that it was unlikely the legislation would be used to bar Corbyn, or any other parliamentarian, from entering the country.

The new law gives the interior minister leeway to make exceptions. Previous laws already allowed the minister to bar individuals from entering Israel.

The UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office updated its travel advice after the law was passed, advising that visitors contact the Israeli embassy about the impact of the new legislation before traveling to Israel.

“The Israeli Parliament passed a law on 6 March 2017, which gives authority to deny entry to foreign nationals who have publicly called for a boycott of Israel and/or settlements, or who belong to an organization which has called for a boycott” the new travel advice states. “You should contact the Israeli embassy for further information.”

Last week, Israel prevented Human Rights Watch Israel and Palestine Director Omar Shakir from entering the country for a second time in less than a month due to his past pro-BDS activism, but on Monday he was allowed into the country.

Stuart Winer contributed to this report.

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