British pro-BDS activist barred from entering Israel

Week after Knesset passes law banning foreign nationals who call for boycotts, ex-chair of Palestine Solidarity Campaign Hugh Lanning denied entry

British pro-Palestinian activist Hugh Lanning. (Screenshot)
British pro-Palestinian activist Hugh Lanning. (Screenshot)

A British pro-Palestinian activist was barred from entering the country on Sunday evening, a week after the Knesset passed a bill allowing foreign nationals who call for boycotting Israel to be turned away by border authorities.

Hugh Lanning, a former chairman of the pro-BDS Palestine Solidarity Campaign, was denied entry into Israel, according to joint statements by the Interior Ministry’s Population and Immigration Authority and Ministry of Public Security headed by Gilad Erdan (Likud), owing to his alleged efforts to promote a boycott of Israel.

Lanning was expected to be placed on a flight back to the UK sometime overnight or on Monday morning.

The joint ministerial statement highlighted PSC’s involvement with other delegitimization groups operating against Israel in the UK, noting that some of its members were aboard vessels that were part of the flotilla aiming to break the blockade against Gaza in 2010. Lanning, the statement said, also met with senior Hamas figures in Gaza in 2012, including top official Ismail Haniyeh.

“Those who act against Israel must understand that the reality has changed,” said Erdan in response. “No sane country would grant entry to central, pro-BDS figures who want to harm it and isolate it.”

Interior Minister Aryeh Deri (Shas) said Israel was following a “determined policy that would no longer look the other way on activists who want to undermine its existence.”

A statement from the Israeli Embassy in the UK cited by Jewish News emphasized the PSC group’s support for the BDS movement, adding that Lanning “is associated with the leaders of Hamas, which is designated as a terror group across the European Union; a group whose anti-Semitic charter calls for killing all Jews.”

“Israel is seeking a peaceful resolution to its conflict with the Palestinians. Those who promote extremism should not be allowed to foment their hatred in Israel,” the statement read.

The Knesset last week passed into law a bill preventing foreign nationals who have publicly called for a boycott of the Jewish state, or work on behalf of an organization that advocates these measures, from entering Israel.

The legislation was advanced by right-wing and centrist coalition lawmakers and passed its third and final reading with 46 lawmakers voting in favor and 28 voting against it.

The law also extends to supporters of boycotts of West Bank settlement products, resting on a legal definition of an Israel boycott in a 2011 law that includes all “areas under its control.”

It would not apply to foreign nationals who have a residency permit and gives the interior minister leeway to make exceptions. Under existing laws, the interior minister already had the right to bar individuals from entering Israel.

Critics of the law have charged that it silences legitimate political dissent on Israeli policy.

A number of Jewish groups in the US and the UK also criticized the law.

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