Israel Passes Law Barring Foreign BDS Activists From Entry

By Miriam Elman

(Re-published from Legal Insurrection | March 9, 2017) On Monday night (March 6), Israel’s parliament (the Knesset) passed in its second and final reading a law barring the entry of foreign nationals who have “knowingly and publicly” called for boycotting Israel or who “represent an organization” that calls for such a boycott.

The law extends the ban to those foreign visitors (excluding permanent residents) who back the anti-Israel BDS (boycott, divestment, and sanctions) movement and to those who support the boycott of settlement goods in Judea and Samaria/the West Bank.

From Inside Higher Education: Writing for the blog Legal Insurrection, Miriam Elman, an associate professor of political science at Syracuse University’s Maxwell School, described the ban as “a perfectly reasonable move for Israel to prevent foreigners from abusing tourist visas in order to try to destroy Israel.” “Israel isn’t particularly unique in refusing entry to people determined to be threats to the state, but the law makes such bans more transparent because individuals would no longer be refused entry into Israel on a case-by-case basis, left solely up to the discretion of the government,” she wrote.

The legislation, which passed with 46 votes in favor and 28 against, was sponsored by center-right political parties and had been in the works for over a year, as discussed in detail in my prior post, Will Israel Bar Entry of Foreign BDS Activists?

As noted, the law aims to combat anti-Israel, BDS-promoting tourist activism that’s gone on unimpeded in the country for years. These foreign activists foment and participate in often violent protests, then take film of the Israeli police response in order to demonize Israel in furtherance of the boycott movement.

To my mind, it’s a perfectly reasonable move for Israel to prevent foreigners from abusing tourist visas in order to try to destroy Israel.

How Israel’s New Anti-BDS Entry Law Will Work

The new legislation is supposed to improve the current situation by replacing an existing law that grants any foreign visitor from a friendly country an automatic 3-month entry visa, except for those who the Interior Minister specifically barred.

The new law flips the situation around such that entry for individuals affiliated with designated pro-BDS organizations would be automatically banned, unless the Interior Minister allows it.

So a key component of the law is “shifting the burden” from the state to the foreign activists themselves. Now, instead of the Ministry of the Interior having to account for why someone shouldn’t be admitted into the country, it’ll be up to the BDS-supporting visitors to “persuade the state” why she or he should be allowed in.

The law aims to address the absurd situation that’s developed in Israel where foreign BDS activists enter Israel under false pretenses and routinely take advantage of automatically issued tourist visas to engage in political warfare against the state.

Every nation on the planet is entitled to control its borders and determine which foreign nationals can enter. Israel isn’t particularly unique in refusing entry to people determined to be threats to the state, but the law makes such bans more transparent because individuals would no longer be refused entry into Israel on a case-by-case basis, left solely up to the discretion of the government.

I wrote in my prior post:

“By making the default option not to grant a visa unless the government says otherwise, the new law would effectively identify and advertise which of the dozens of NGOs currently operating inside Israel are deemed to be harmful to the Jewish state.”

Bottom line: As Naftali Bennett—education minister and leader of the Jewish Home party—said on Twitter (see in Hebrew below) when it passed, the law is “necessary and logical” and “let’s Israel defend itself from those who wish it ill.”

Barring Entry Only to Major BDS Leaders Who Call for Israel’s Destruction

Will a left-wing Jewish American college student who tweeted using the hashtag #BDS or who called for a boycott on her Facebook page be turned away at Ben Gurion Airport because of the new anti-BDS entry law?

What about someone who made a one-time donation to a BDS-supporting organization, or who signed a pro-BDS petition at some point in the last few years?

None of these people would be blocked (although, as I noted in my prior post, there’s always the chance that an over-zealous Interior Ministry official will enforce the law improperly).

The law is meant to advance steps to “oppose those who call for Israel’s demise.” But it’s supposed to apply to “major BDS activists” and foreign BDS campaigners “with standing” who can “really impact the situation” by getting others to boycott Israel. It’ll apply to “known organizations” and their main activists and won’t involve any “blacklists” of other individuals.

It certainly won’t be applied to someone who just “posts a comment on Facebook against Israel.”

In the category of those who would be blocked from entry by the new law are BDS-backing foreigners who spend their time in Israel not doing touristy things but collecting false information and ‘evidence’ about Israel’s alleged perfidy and malevolence to spread on social media and to share back home to captive audiences.

Also included will be BDS activists who act to harass and obstruct IDF and security personnel by organizing or participating in violent protests, making contact with representatives of terror organizations, and inciting Palestinians or Jewish settlers to violence …

To read the whole post, click here.