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March 10, 2017  RSS feed
World News

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Knesset bans entry to foreigners calling for boycotts of Israel

(JTA) – Israel has enacted a law banning entry to foreigners who publicly call for boycotting the Jewish state or its settlements.

The Knesset passed the law by a vote of 46-28 on Monday, March 6, the Israeli daily Haaretz reported.

The ban applies to any foreigner “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.” It includes those who urge boycotting areas under Israeli control, such as the West Bank settlements.

The measure was meant to target groups, rather than individuals, according to Roy Folkman, a lawmaker from the Kulanu party.“It doesn’t cover any individual who ever said something. It’s aimed mainly at organizations that work against Israel,” Folkman said, according to Haaretz.

The Interior Ministry will be able to make exceptions to the law, and foreigners with residency permits will not be affected, according to The Times of Israel. While the Zionist Organization of America has endorsed the new law, most other American Jewish groups oppose the law.

The ‘boycott, divestment and sanctions’ (‘BDS’) movement against Israel is unjustified, discriminatory, harmful economic terrorism, powered by virulent Jew hatred,” the ZOA said in a statement.

Groups that have lined up against the new law include the Anti-Defamation League and American Jewish Committee, as well as the Reform and Reconstructionist movements, plus and array of left-wing Jewish groups, including J Street and the New Israel Fund.

J Street said the ban was counterproductive. “This bill is the latest piece of Israeli legislation to undermine Israel’s own democratic principles and its international standing,” the group said in a statement it excerpted on Twitter.

The Union for Reform Judaism criticized Israel’s new law as anti-democratic.

“We are frustrated that by passing this law, the Israeli government has in essence posted a giant sign by the door of the Jewish state saying, ‘Don’t come unless you agree with everything we’re doing here,’” Rabbi Rick Jacobs, the URJ’s president, said in a statement. “What kind of democracy makes that kind of statement?”

The Association for Israel Studies also condemned the law, saying it would turn Israel into an “isolated entity open only to those who ascribe to official policy.”

“Passage of this legislation sends a message to the Israeli public and to the world, that as far as the Israeli political establishment is concerned, legitimate political expression is verboten,” said Debra DeLee, the president of Americans for Peace Now.

Rabbi Jill Jacobs, who directs T’ruah, a rabbinical human rights group, said a broad swath of U.S. Jewish groups could face a ban for speaking out against settlements, or even for snubbing them.

“Is an organization like mine that called on the Jewish National Fund not to invest in settlements, on the list?” she asked

Earlier this month, Israel denied a tourist visa to an American employee of Human Rights Watch days after denying his application for a work visa.. In explaining the visa denial, the Israeli government said the group’s “public actions and reports have focused on politics in service of Palestinian propaganda while falsely raising the banner of ‘human rights.’”

The Trump administration has said that border crossings are a sovereign matter, but added that it favors free expression.

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