Five U.S. Jewish, Christian and Muslim leaders were barred from entering Israel under a new law that prohibits entry to Israel by foreign activists who advocate a boycott of the country.
Interior Minister Rabbi Aryeh Deri said in a statement Tuesday that the five had a long record of advocacy for the movement known as BDS, which seeks to ostracize Israel by lobbying corporations, artists and academic institutions to sever ties with Israel.
It is the first time the Israeli government has implemented the policy, which won approval in March, allowing authorities to keep out non-citizens who publicly support a boycott of Israel or work for an organization that does.
Supporters of BDS — which stands for boycott, divestment and sanctions — say they are using nonviolent means to promote the Palestinian independence efforts. The movement has grown into a global network of thousands of volunteers, from campus activists to church groups as well as some Jews.
Israel says the campaign goes beyond fighting its occupation of territory Palestinians claim for a state and often masks a more far-reaching aim to delegitimize or destroy Israel. Some critics accuse the BDS movement of anti-Semitism because it singles out Israel for boycott while overlooking the Palestinian part in the conflict and ignoring countries with poor human rights records.
The five American leaders who were barred from entry were from the advocacy groups Jewish Voice for Peace, American Muslims for Palestine and the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship, which is active within the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), a Protestant denomination that voted three years ago to divest from some companies in protest of Israeli treatment of Palestinians.
Tal Muscal, a spokesman for Lufthansa, said each country sets its own entry requirements. “Lufthansa has no influence regarding the implementation or enforcement of such regulations,” Muscal said.
Tzahi Gavrieli, an official at Israel’s Ministry of Strategic Affairs, said the entry ban is strictly for those who are “undertaking ongoing, consistent and significant actions to promote and advance a boycott of Israel.” He said the ban is aimed at “individual activists who are major players, senior leadership in the BDS movement worldwide.”