Israeli Knesset Bill to Deny BDS Activists Visas Passes

In-depth Report:

The decision by the Knesset comes the same day as an EU requirement to label goods made in the occupied territories.

The Israeli Knesset is one step closer to approving a bill prohibiting activists in the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement (BDS) from entering the country. The move comes the same day as the European Parliament passed a measure requiring all products produced in the occupied territories to be labeled, which could help the BDS movement.

The bill, proposed by the right-wing Jewish Home party, says that, “Anyone who calls for a boycott of Israel is engagning in terrorism and must not be allowed to travel the country freely.” The BDS movement, which is a growing form of nonviolent protest against Israeli occupation, is described as “a new front of war against Israel.”

A similar bill in 2011, criticized by civil rights organizations, allows those targeted by the boycott to sue BDS activists without proof of damage. In response to the EU decision, though, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that boycotts affect Palestinians, not Israelis, pointing out that, “The Israeli economy is strong and will withstand this, those who will suffer will be the Palestinians who are employed in Israeli factories.”

The BDS movement began in 2005 after a Palestinian civil society call until Israel ends its occupation, recognizes the equal rights of Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel and respects the right to return of Palestinian refugees. Its academic, consumer and cultural boycott has been gaining increased attention recently, and United Nations figures show that foreign direct investment in Israel dropped by 46 percent last year.

While some BDS activists target only businesses in the occupied territories, others include any Israeli company with the logic that any investment in Israel directly or indirectly funds the occupation. The bill also joins the Israeli economy with that of its occupied territories, defining boycott as, “economic, social or academic ties or ties to a person or other body just because of his connection to the State of Israel.”

Hundreds of Israelis signed a petition lauding the EU requirement on labels, which separates the occupied territories from the rest of the state, a “step that could help promote a peace agreement … and will undermine attempts to delegitimize it.”

Still, the bill that would “prevent individuals or representatives of companies, foundations or organizations that call for boycotting Israel from advancing their ideology on Israeli soil” is supported by the governing coalition and 25 other representatives. Though the draft may still undergo revisions, it currently allows the interior minister special authority to issue visas or permits in exceptional cases.

Articles by: Telesur

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