Blowback on BDS Blacklist

Head of the Zionist Camp party Avi Gabbay leads a faction meeting at the Knesset on Monday. On his right is Yitzchak Herzog, his predecessor, who stayed on as opposition leader. Since he is not a Knesset member, Gabbay cannot serve as opposition leader. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Since publishing a list of 20 organizations linked to BDS whose members will be denied entry into Israel, a barrage of criticism has been loosed by the boycotters themselves, rights groups, Israeli opposition parties and the visiting Norwegian foreign minister.

Strategic Affairs Minister Gilad Erdan said in a statement Sunday that with the ban, 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,” he said.

Not surprisingly, the ban was decried as undemocratic and repressive, and some activists sought to use it against Israel itself.

Executive director Yousef Munayyer of the U.S. Campaign for Palestinian Rights said in a statement: “We wear this designation as a badge of honor. 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.”

Daniel Sokatch, CEO of The New Israel Fund, a prominent leftwing NGO (though not on the list), said: “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.”

At the Knesset on Monday, Yair Lapid, chairman of Yesh Atid, was unrestrained in denouncing the law.

“BDS activists are detestable, but this is an idiotic idea. So our policy to fight boycotts is by implementing another boycott?” he asked.

Lapid argued that besides “harming the war against BDS,” the list is also ineffectual since members of some of the Jewish BDS groups on the list, such as Jewish Voice for Peace, “can just make aliyah and then they will be here anyway.”

Zionist Camp chair Avi Gabbay took a similar stance, saying that the ban “has no logic at all.”

“They are causing damage abroad. So if they are here, they can’t do the same damage abroad,” said Gabbay.

Meanwhile, Norwegian Foreign Minister Ine Eriksen Søreide, on a two-day visit to Israel and the Palestinian area, told Norwegian daily Verdens Gang that she made her government’s objection known to the Israeli foreign ministry and said she raised the subject during her meeting with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.

“Norway is critical of this and has expressed it to the Israeli authorities,” Søreide said. “Yesterday, I took up this with Prime Minister Netanyahu, and I repeated it today at the meeting with the minister for regional cooperation,” she said, referring to Tzachi Hanegbi.

The blacklist includes one Norwegian group, Norge Palestinakomitee (The Palestine Committee of Norway).

Referring to a Norwegian woman who was denied entry into Israel over the weekend, Søreide said she was familiar with the case of the Norwegian Church Aid member who was stopped at Ben Gurion airport.

“It is very unfortunate that Norwegians who come to follow up various programs and assistance projects have been or may risk being denied entry to Israel,” she told Verdens Gang.

“I note with surprise that Israeli authorities have published a list of organizations that will not be allowed to enter Israel on the basis that Israel claims they support BDS. A Norwegian organization is among these. We will continue, along with other affected countries, to raise our criticism of this practice with the Israeli authorities. We will also continue to address individual cases.”

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