These Four Things Will Get You Barred From Entering Israel Under Its New BDS Travel Ban

After BDS activists prevented from boarding plane for trip to Israel, senior minister warns, 'The rules of the game have changed'

Israelis watch aircrafts during an air force flyover as part of 2009 Independence Day celebrations
Israelis watch aircrafts during an air force flyover as part of 2009 Independence Day celebrations AP

A day after five activists in the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement were barred from flying from the United States to Israel, senior Israeli government ministers published an official statement explaining their decision to keep them out of the country.

"These were prominent activists who continuously advocate for a boycott and who sought to come [to Israel] as part of a delegation of extremist boycott organizations whose entire purpose is to harm Israel," Interior Minister Arye Dery and Strategic Affairs Minister Gilad Erdan said in a joint statement.  

In March, the Knesset passed a law that bars from Israel any foreigners who have publicly expressed support for boycotting Israel. In their statement, Dery and Erdan said the BDS supporters were barred from the plane because of this new law.

Separately, Erdan said "the rules of the game have changed," and that organizations seeking to harm Israel's "national security" through boycotts would be denied entry to the country.

Strategic Affairs Minister Gilad Erdan at a press conference, May 7, 2017
Nir Keidar

"We will not let key boycott activists in here to harm us," he said.

The interior minister is responsible for enforcing the new law. A spokeswoman said decisions are made on a case-by-case basis, usually in compliance with recommendations from the Strategic Affairs Ministry, which monitors the international boycott movement.

"The Interior Ministry prevented in this case, and will also prevent in the future, the entry of boycott activists whose key objective is to work against the State of Israel," said Dery.

The five activists barred from flying to Israel were part of a 22-member interfaith delegation. They were about to board a Lufthansa flight from Washington Dulles International Airport when an airline representative notified them that instructions had been received from Israeli immigration authorities not to allow them to fly.

The activists prevented from flying with the group were members of three organizations that support BDS: Jewish Voice for Peace, American Muslims for Palestine and Presbyterian Peace Fellowship.

On Monday, the Interior Ministry published a list of criteria that determine which organizations and activists fall under the controversial new ban. The organizations that will be targeted, according to these criteria, are those that promote a boycott "actively, consistently and continuously."

The document notes, however, that just because an organization is "anti-Israel or pro-Palestinian, or has an agenda that is critical of Israeli government policy," is not an excuse to ban its members from the country.

The ban on BDS activists, the document said, will apply to activists in those organizations that have been targeted as well as to independent activists who meet one of the following criteria:

1. They hold senior-level positions in the targeted organizations;
2. They are key activists in the boycott movement, whether or not they operate independently or through the targeted organizations;
3. They are establishment figures (such as mayors) who openly support a boycott;
4. They operate on behalf of targeted organizations.

A complete list of organizations that have been targeted by the new law will be published in the near future, said a spokeswoman for the Strategic Affairs Ministry.