Monday, December 11, 2017

Theology professor deported on grounds of support for Israel boycott


By The Palestine Monitor - December 06, 2016
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Section: [Main News] [BDS]
Tags: [BDS]

On Monday, Israel denied entry to a senior official from the World Council of Churches (WCC) citing her organisation's involvement in pro-Palestinian activism in the West Bank and alleged support for the BDS movement. It’s the first time Israel deports a foreign national explicitly for involvement with boycott activities.
 
Dr. Isabel Apawo Phiri, originally from Malawi, is associate general secretary for Public Witness and Diakonia at the WCC, as well as a professor of African theology.
 
According to a statement issued by the WCC, Apawo Phiri was interrogated and deported from Ben Gurion airport on Monday. She had intended to attend consultations with church leaders in Jerusalem about one of the Council’s programmes, the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI). The programme, which has been running since 2002, brings international volunteers to the West Bank to both witness human rights abuses and offer protective presence to vulnerable Palestinian communities. Almost 1,800 accompaniers have participated since its inception at the height of the Second Intifada.
 
The statement said four other members of her delegation were allowed entry, adding that the WCC would appeal against the “patently unjust and discriminatory action.”
 
According to Israeli daily Haaretz, Apawo Phiri was deported despite “security officials saying she did not pose a threat.”
 
Haaretz reported Interior Minister Aryeh Dery as saying that "granting an entry permit to activists such as Phiri would in effect reinforce the wrongful activities she and her peers are advancing and I have no intention of lending a hand to that. I will use any authority at my disposal to avert harm to Israel."
 
Dery reportedly decided against granting Apawo Phiri a visa after consultations with public security minister Gilan Erdan, who has been spearheading the fight against BDS. Last August, Erdan and Deri established a committee to prevent BDS activists from entering Israel, and deport those already in the country. Last year, the Israeli government approved a budget of $25.5 million for Erdan’s ministry, most of which would go towards establishing an “anti-BDS task force”.
 
About Apawo Phiri, Erdan told the media that “the place of the boycotters is outside the country’s borders and we shall continue to do everything possible to prevent them from entering our country.”
 
Palestinians have no control over their land, air and sea borders, which means that anyone wishing to enter the West Bank or Gaza needs to do so through one of Israel’s border crossings. Although no comprehensive figures are available, a recent analysis of UN data, coupled with a spike in reports of deportations of foreign nationals headed to the West Bank or Gaza, suggest such incidents may be on the rise.
 
On November 14, the Knesset approved in the first reading a bill that, if passed into law, would allow Israel to deny entry to activists supporting the BDS movement. Israeli politicians have said the movement is anti-Semitic, with Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked of the right-wing national-religious Jewish Home party calling it "the new face of terrorism".
 
According to the BDS website, the movement “urges action to pressure Israel to comply with international law” and is inspired by the South African anti-apartheid movement. Its goals are to end the occupation, recognise the rights of Palestinian refugees as enshrined in UN resolution 194, and achieve full equality for Palestinians citizens of Israel.
 
“The accusations made against the WCC and the EAPPI programme in the interrogation of Dr Phiri and published in the media today are completely false” said WCC general secretary Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit in a statement. “I am very surprised and dismayed that the Israeli Ministry of Interior is apparently basing its decisions on incorrect and unreliable sources.”
 
The WCC added that it “deeply regrets the Israeli antagonism against the WCC’s initiatives for peace with justice for both Palestinians and Israelis.”
 
Photo: Albin Hillert/WCC 

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