Ramallah - Israel's parliament, the Knesset, passed a law late Monday evening to bar foreign nationals who support a boycott of Israel from entering the country.
The law states that “no visa and residency permit of any type will be given to a person who is not an Israeli citizen or does not have a permit for permanent residency in the State of Israel” if the individual has publicly called for an economic, cultural or academic boycott of Israel or the settlements, or works for an organisation that advocates it. The bill, sponsored by right-wing and centrist coalition lawmakers, was passed with 46 votes in favour and 28 against.
The ban will apply to anyone “who knowingly issues a public call for boycotting Israel that, given the content of the call and the circumstances in which it was issued, has a reasonable possibility of leading to the imposition of a boycott – if the issuer was aware of this possibility.” The definition is taken from the 2011 “boycott law” which allowed the filing of civil lawsuits against Israeli citizens and organisations promoting BDS.
“It’s possible to feel national pride and still believe in human rights. It’s possible to defend the name and honor of the State of Israel and there’s no shame in that,” said one of the bill's sponsors, MK Roy Folkman from the centrist Kulanu party, during the Knesset debate.
Human rights organisations have released various statements criticising the bill.
A statement from Adalah said: “This law violates the most basic tenets of democracy by making political opinions a consideration that may prevent non-citizens from entering Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT). Those seeking to enter the country most certainly need not align their political positions with those of the current Israeli government in regards to the occupation.”
Palestinians with temporary residency status in Israel - like those undergoing family unification procedures - will not be exempted.
“These individuals will now be vulnerable to a revocation of their status and permits based upon their political opinions,” the statement continued.
In practice, Israeli border authorities already have the power to decide who comes in and who stays out, and many pro-Palestinian activists have been turned away at Israel's borders over the years, with reports soaring in recent months. But critics argue that enshrining this practice into law sends a clear message that will further isolate the country.
Jstreet, an advocacy group that defines itself as the “political home for pro-israel, pro-peace americans” strongly criticised the bill, saying “it will do nothing to deter the Global BDS Movement – indeed it hands them a victory. The bill will further isolate the country, validate Israel’s critics and deny many people the opportunity to hear and learn from Israelis and Palestinians firsthand (...). The Israeli government’s continued insistence that the settlements should be treated the same as Israel within the Green Line advances the interest of a small right-wing minority at the expense of Israel’s long-term interests.”