Rights groups on Sunday slammed the Israeli government for publishing a blacklist of BDS groups whose members will be banned from entering the country, saying Israel was trying to coerce opponents of the occupation, including US Jews, into silence.
The list, containing 20 organizations from around the world, was published earlier by the Strategic Affairs Ministry which said Israel was justified in preventing entry to members of Boycott, Divest and Sanction proponents who aim to harm the country.
Jewish Voice for Peace, the only Jewish group on the list, responded to the ban in an opinion piece by its executive director Rebecca Vilkomerson, published on the Haartez website.
“The public naming of JVP on this list is significant,” Vilkomerson wrote. “Clearly, the Israeli government is very aware that increasing numbers of Jews and all people worldwide support the BDS movement, and are seeking to intimidate and coerce us into silence.”
Along with other rights groups, Vilkomerson warned that the ban could have far-reaching implications for Palestinians living in the West Bank or abroad.
“Palestinians from the West Bank, Gaza, East Jerusalem or abroad who are married to Israeli citizens, for example, may be forced between not traveling abroad at all or finding themselves in exile when they attempt to return,” she wrote. “Those who want to enter Israel for medical treatment or family reunification may find it impossible.”
One of the banned organizations, the US Campaign for Palestinian Rights, said in a statement that “the publication of this list is part of an increasing effort by the State of Israel to repress the growing movement for Palestinian rights around the globe.”
“We wear this designation as a badge of honor,” added USCPR Executive Director Yousef Munayyer. “When Israel, which aims to portray itself to the world as liberal and democratic, blacklists activists dedicated to nonviolent organizing and dissent, it only further exposes itself as a fraud.”
“This blacklist and repressive efforts like it will be mere footnotes in the historic march toward freedom, justice and equality,” he said.
The left-wing New Israel Fund, which was not named on the blacklist, also criticized the ban, saying it was undemocratic.
In a statement, NIF noted that while it does not support the BDS movement, “banning political opposition is the policy of autocracies, not democracies.”
“The Netanyahu government’s Entry Law, which is a travel ban that uses blacklists and litmus tests to bar visitors from entering Israel based on their beliefs, flies in the face of the democratic principles enshrined in Israel’s declaration of independence,” NIF CEO Daniel Sokatch said.
“We know that it’s profoundly anti-democratic to discriminate against those who advocate for nonviolent strategies just because the government doesn’t agree with their views,” the statement said. “Our position is principled: We do not support the BDS movement. We oppose the government’s travel ban and all its actions to punish those with whom it disagrees.”
Adalah, an Israeli organization providing legal aid for Arabs, warned that the ban will restrict family visits and family unification for Palestinians in the West Bank.
Hassan Jabareen, general director of Adalah said in a statement that the list and prohibition is “an overt violation of the constitutional rights of Israeli citizens and the rights guaranteed to Palestinian residents of the occupied Palestinian territories under international humanitarian and human rights law.”
“This move is reminiscent of South Africa’s apartheid regime which also prepared blacklists in order to punish people and prevent the entry of those opposed to its racist policies,” he said.
Israeli rights group, B’Tselem, also not on the list, said in response that Israel is trying to impose its policies in the West Bank on the whole world.
“Israel is already used to defining that in the territories there is no legitimate resistance in its eyes,” B’Tselem said in a statement. Now, Israel allows itself the authority to try to define what is legitimate political activities in additional territories outside of its jurisdiction — not only the [Palestinian] territories but throughout the world. The attempt to prevent criticism of the occupation — in the territories, in Israel, or in the world — will not give the occupation a humane appearance, and will not make it less terrible.”
Strategic Affairs Minister Gilad Erdan said in earlier a statement listing the targeted groups that Israel was going on the offensive against the BDS movement.
“Boycott organizations need to know that Israel will act against them and will not allow [them] to enter its territory in order to harm its citizens.”
The groups, considered central to the boycott movement, “operate consistently, continuous and persistently against Israel, by way of pressuring entities, institutes, and countries to boycott Israel,” a ministry statement declared.
“The activities of the organizations are carried out by way of a false propaganda campaign, aimed at undermining Israel’s legitimacy in the world.”
In March 2017, 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.
Here is the full list.
• AFSC (American Friends Service Committee)
• AMP (American Muslims for Palestine)
• Code Pink
• JVP (Jewish Voice for Peace)
• NSJP (National Students for Justice in Palestine)
• USCPR (US Campaign for Palestinian Rights)
• AFPS (The Association France Palestine Solidarité)
• BDS France
• BDS Italy
• ECCP (The European Coordination of Committees and Associations for Palestine)
• FOA (Friends of al-Aqsa)
• IPSC (Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign)
• Norgeׂׂ Palestinakomitee (The Palestine Committee of Norway)
• PGS Palestinagrupperna i Sverige (Palestine Solidarity Association in Sweden)
• PSC (Palestine Solidarity Campaign)
• War on Want
• BDS Kampagne
• BDS Chile
• BDS South Africa
• BNC (BDS National Committee)
JTA contributed to this report.