On Sunday, Israeli Public Security and Strategic Affairs Minister and Israeli Interior Minister agreed, during a meeting, to create a new measure preventing the entry into Israel of foreign activists being part of organisations boycotting Israel.
According to Haaretz, a task group will work on the project, which will also include the deportation of activists who have already entered the country.
For this measure, Israel does not aim at creating new legislation. Instead, it will focus on gathering information in order to find activists in Israel as well as collecting proves regarding their pro-boycott activism.
An Israeli senior official told Haaretz that the working group will outline the criteria over which a foreign activist will be deported or banned from Israel. The same working group is also supposed to find the legal basis for such a measure. The senior official also reported to Haaretz that this measure will be implemented on a “case-by-case basis”, focusing on “whether deporting certain individuals will benefit or harm Israeli interests.”
According to some information provided at the Sunday meeting, some activists belong to BDS organisations but some others do not. These activists enter Israel through Ben-Gurion International Airport or the Allenby Bridge from Jordan.
Palestinian officials reacted to such a decision, deploring that this measure would harm freedom of expression, while it demonstrates the increasing impact of the BDS movement over Israel.
Indeed, Mustafa al-Barghouti, the Head of the Palestinian National Initiative, said that “this decision shows how racist Israel is”, and that “a country should not allow this threat for freedom of expression”. He also said that “the BDS movement is a strong movement and it starts having effects on Israel, which is the reason why Israeli are fighting it and take such a decision.” Al-Barghouti added that “we, as Palestinians, should adopt the BDS movement at the local level to strengthen it on the Palestinian level so that it affects Israel.” He also claimed that “it is not the first time Israel is taking such a decision but it will not destroy our determination and we will continue this struggle. This decision shows the real face of Israel.”
According to Munther Amera, the chairman of the Popular Resistance Committee in the West Bank, “Israel tries to abuse the international activists. All the Israeli decisions are illegal, and this specific one targets the BDS movement, a peaceful movement which is one of the important movements on the international and local levels calling for the boycott of Israel.” He said that “Israel wants to forbid foreigner activists to come because it does not want them to witness how Israel acts on Palestinian territories.” He added that “this shows how much Israel is a racist and undemocratic country” and calls for “the international community and international human rights organisations to stop such a decision which breaks the international law.”
A concern that one might raise about the “case-by-case basis” is that this may leave room for interpretation. It is also worth recalling that Israel already implements this “case-by-case basis” when deciding whether to allow tourists to enter Israel for three months or less. Consequently, some tourists have to go through interrogations – that might last hours – when arriving at the Ben-Gurion International Airport or when crossing the Allenby Bridge from Jordan.
While Israel justifies such a measure through the “delegitimization” concern, one may wonder if this new measure will reinforce the arbitrariness when deciding whether to allow someone to enter Israel.