Israel has denied entry to a US employee of Amnesty International as part of controversial efforts to bar supporters of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, officials said Wednesday.
Amnesty and Israeli officials said Raed Jarrar, an advocacy director for the Middle East and North Africa at the rights group, was prevented from entering the West Bank on Monday.
A spokeswoman for Israel’s interior ministry said the office of Public Security and Strategic Affairs Minister Gilad Erdan had recommended he be denied entry over BDS.
She could not provide further details and a spokesman for Erdan could not be reached for comment.
Amnesty alleged that the refusal was “apparently as retaliation against the organisation’s human rights work.”
Jarrar, who is of Palestinian origin, was stopped at a crossing between Jordan and the West Bank while on a personal trip to visit family following his father’s death, Amnesty said.
Israel controls the crossing on the West Bank side.
“The fact that Raed Jarrar was barred from entry after being interrogated about his work with Amnesty International appears to suggest that this move was taken in retaliation for the organisation’s work on human rights violations in the occupied Palestinian territories,” Amnesty’s Philip Luther said in a statement.
Israel passed legislation in March banning entry to foreigners who support boycotting the country or its settlements.
It sees the boycott movement as a strategic threat and accuses it of anti-Semitism — a claim activists deny, saying they only want to see an end to Israel’s occupation.
Amnesty said its “campaign on settlements, which (Jarrar) plays a leading role in, does not call for a consumer boycott of Israeli settlement products.”
“It is based on the fact that Israeli settlements are illegal under international law and that states have a legal obligation not to recognize or assist an illegal situation,” Amnesty said.
It said that “Amnesty International neither supports nor opposes boycotts and is not part of the BDS movement.”
In September, Amnesty said it was alarmed at reports Israel was planning to target its funding in retaliation for its stance against Jewish settlements in the West Bank.
Israel disputes the belief that the settlements are illegal, saying that they are justified on historical and ethical grounds and Israel has valid claims to the West Bank.