Israeli opposition leaders on Monday slammed the government’s policy toward the BDS movement, following the publication of a list of organizations whose members will be banned from entering the country.
The blacklist, published a day earlier, covers some 20 groups the Strategic Affairs Ministry says are part of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement, which it says consistently and openly works to delegitimize Israel. One of the groups listed is the US-based Jewish Voice for Peace.
Speaking at the weekly Yesh Atid faction meeting at the Knesset, the chairman of the opposition party, MK Yair Lapid, called the list an “idiotic idea.”
“BDS activists are detestable but this is an idiotic idea. So our policy to fight boycotts is by implementing another boycott?” he asked.
Lapid said that beyond “harming the war against BDS,” the list also makes no sense since members of some of the Jewish BDS groups on the list, such as Jewish Voice for Peace, “can just make aliyah and then they will be here anyway.”
Zionist Union chair Avi Gabbay, speaking at his faction’s meeting, said that the blocking of BDS activists “has no logic at all.”
“They are causing damage abroad. So if they are here, they can’t do the same damage abroad,” said Gabbay, who leads the faction but is not a member of the Knesset.
Zionist Union number two MK Tzipi Livni echoed Gabbay’s words, saying that the way to hinder BDS activists was not to keep them out of Israel but to “allow them in so that they can see this country for what is really is.”
Meanwhile, Norwegian Foreign Minister Ine Eriksen Søreide, on a two-day visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories, told Norwegian daily Verdens Gang that she had notified Israeli authorities about her government’s objection to the blacklist.
She said she had raised the subject during talks with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
“Norway is critical of this and has expressed it to the Israeli authorities,” Soreide said. “Yesterday, I took up this with Prime Minister Netanyahu, and I repeated it today at the meeting with the minister for regional coperation,” she said referring to Tsachi Hanegbi.
The blacklist includes one Norwegian group, Norgeׂׂ Palestinakomitee (The Palestine Committee of Norway).
Søreide’s visit came as a Norwegian woman, who is a member of another aid organization, was denied entry to Israel on Saturday and returned to her country the following day, allegedly for breaking the terms of her visa.
Søreide said she was familiar with the case of the Norwegian Church Aid member who was stopped at Ben Gurion airport.
“It is very unfortunate that Norwegians who come to follow up various programs and assistance projects have been or may risk being denied entry to Israel,” she told Verdens Gang. “I note with surprise that Israeli authorities have published a list of organizations that will not be allowed to enter Israel on the basis that Israel claims they support BDS. A Norwegian organization is among these. We will continue, along with other affected countries, to raise our criticism of this practice with the Israeli authorities. We will also continue to address individual cases.”
Haaretz reported that the woman, who serves as the head of NCA’s East Jerusalem and West Bank branch, was denied entry to the country even though she has lived in Israel for several years. An Interior Ministry spokesperson told Haaretz that the woman had tried to obtain visas for other aid workers under false pretenses, violating the terms of her own visa, and that was why she was prevented from returning to the country, and not because of the work that she was doing.
Norwegian Church Aid confirmed that one of its workers was stopped and sent back but told VG that it rejected the Israeli claims of inappropriate activities. The group noted that it is not the first time its members have been stopped at the border.
“We strongly react to this kind of allegations against a staff member attached to a humanitarian program that is given high priority by the UN, and will ask the Israeli authorities for an explanation of this,” an NCA spokesperson said.
In March, the Knesset amended the Law of Entry to prevent leaders of the BDS movement from being allowed into Israel. The amendment applies to organizations that take consistent and significant action against Israel through BDS, as well as the leadership and senior activists of those groups.