Global News

Israel steps up battle against boycott movement

Israel steps up battle against boycott movement

The Knesset on Monday night passed in a second and third reading a law barring the entry of visitors who have called for a boycott on Israel.

The Knesset (parliament) passed the controversial law with 46 lawmakers voting in favor and 28 voting against it.

The law will mainly target activists who support theboycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement, which calls for economic measures against Israel over its discrimination against Palestinians. The Israeli government argued that the HRW's "public actions and reports have focused on politics in service of Palestinian propaganda while falsely raising the banner of 'human rights.'" Iain Levine, the program director for Human Rights Watch, called it "deeply troubling that Israeli officials, despite promises to the contrary, have denied Human Rights Watch's country director a visa to enter Israel".

A request from the justice minister to make an exception for Palestinian with temporary residence in the country was rejected, Haaretz reported, although the interior ministry reserved the right to make exception in particular circumstances.

The wording of the approved bill enforces the ban even for boycotters of areas under occupation by Israel. "The proposed law will prevent people or representatives of companies, foundations or groups calling for a boycott of Israel from operating within the lands of the State of Israel to advance their ideas".

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Amsalem said that he is not against legitimate criticism of Israel but that the law was created to penalize those who were not just "talking about boycotting only the settlements; [but who] are talking about boycotting the state as a state, without any distinction".

The law has been criticised by pacifist and human rights organisations, such as Peace Now, which called it "neither Jewish nor democratic" but rather "a clear violation of freedom of expression".

Jewish Voice for Peace, a US human rights group supporting BDS, compared the law to US President Donald Trump's revised ban on refugees and travelers from six Muslim-majority nations.

"Trump's bad new Muslim and Arab ban coincides with the Israeli parliament passing its own ban-formally barring worldwide human rights defenders who support Palestinian rights through BDS tactics". Settlements, which are on land annexed by Israel almost 50 years ago that Palestinians want as part of a future state, are generally seen as an obstacle to peace, as we have reported, and the United Nations says settlements are illegal under global law.

In passing the law, the Israeli authorities gave legal blessing to a practice many activists say was already in place: the denial of entry to supporters of Palestinian rights and to Palestinians who live outside the region.

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