Israel Blocks Head of pro-BDS Organization From Entering Israel

Hugh Lanning, who heads the pro-BDS Palestine Solidarity Campaign, prevented from entering; We won't allow key boycott supporters to come, minister says.

Hugh Lanning in a demonstration against the Gaza war in 2014
Hugh Lanning in a demonstration against the Gaza war in 2014 Palestine Solidarity Campaign via Flickr

Israel's Population and Immigration Authority and the Strategic Affairs Ministry prevented Hugh Lanning, the chairman of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, from entering Israel on Sunday night. In a joint statement by the two offices, the ministries said the decision was due to Lanning's ongoing efforts to advance a boycott of Israel and was reached following consultation with the Foreign Ministry.

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Lanning is expected to board a plane back to the U.K. early Monday morning.

The statement claimed that the organization led by Lanning, the PSC, is the leading force in the effort to delegitimize Israel in Britain and among the biggest in Europe. According to the statement, the group cooperates "with other delegitimizing organizations to promote the boycott [of Israel] and other activities against the state of Israel."

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Some of the PSC's members also participated in the Mavi Marmara Gaza flotilla, the statement said, adding that the PSC website is rife with calls to boycott Israel.

Israel further claimed that Lanning also maintains ties to Hamas' leadership in Gaza. In 2012, Lanning visited Gaza and met with top figures from the Islamist group, including its leader Ismail Haniyeh, the statement said. "Lanning has personally and consistently promoted a boycott against Israel and has made so abundantly clear in public," the statement said.

Gilad Erdan, Israel's strategic affairs minister said that together with the Interior Ministry he is leading a new policy to prevent entry to those working to harm Israel: "Those acting against Israel need to understand that reality is changing. No sane country would permit entry to the main activists calling for its boycott and who work leave it isolated."

Interior Minister Arye Dery, who oversees the immigration authority, said "those working against Israel and doing everything they can to undermine its security must understand that we will not ignore the attempts to undermine our existence. The decision reached tonight sends an unequivocal message to pro-boycott activist, the law passed last week is another step in this policy.

Last week, the Knesset approved a law that would automatically deny entry to people who knowingly and publicly support boycotts against Israel and territory under its control, or who represent an organization that does so, unless the interior minister chooses to allow them in. Under the old law, BDS supporters were not specifically singled out unless the interior minister chose to prevent their entry into the country.

On Thursday, a Human Rights Watch researcher who was initially refused a work visa was allowed to enter on a tourist visa.