WASHINGTON — The Zionist Organization of America endorsed a new Israel law that would ban entry to supporters of boycotting Israel or its settlements, setting it apart from an array of Jewish groups who oppose the law.
“The ‘boycott, divestment and sanctions’ (BDS) movement against Israel is unjustified, discriminatory, harmful economic terrorism, powered by virulent Jew hatred,” the ZOA said Friday in a statement.
“Israel thus has every right to protect herself with this law, which bans entry of persons who are not Israeli citizens or permanent residents if they, or the organization in which they are active, knowingly issued a public call to boycott Israel or pledged to boycott Israel or areas controlled by Israel,” the group said.
The law, adopted Monday by the Knesset, bans entry to foreigners who publicly call for boycotting the Jewish state or its settlements. It has drawn mounting criticism from American Jewish groups, including the Anti-Defamation League and the American Jewish Committee, as well as the Reform and Reconstructionist movements. First to condemn the law were an array of left-wing Jewish groups, including J Street and the New Israel Fund.
On Friday, the Association for Israel Studies condemned the law, saying it would turn Israel into an “isolated entity open only to those who ascribe to official policy.”
The Trump administration has said that border crossings are a sovereign matter, but added that it favors free expression.
In a briefing to reporters on Wednesday, State Department spokesman Mark Toner said it is up to Israel to make decisions regarding its borders.
“While we oppose boycotts and sanctions of the state of Israel, we also support firmly freedom of expression,” Toner said. “That said, it’s – this is a sovereign decision for Israel to make regarding its borders.”
According to the new law, the ban applies to any foreigner “who knowingly issues a public call for 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.” It includes those who urge limiting boycotts to areas under Israeli control, such as the West Bank settlements.
Some backers of the bill say it would be used only against those active in organizations that support BDS, and would not block an individual for something she or he might once have said.