The Knesset Interior Committee last week advanced a bill that, if passed, would forbid the granting of entry visas or residence permits to foreign nationals who have called for economic, cultural or academic boycotts of Israel or the settlements.
The private member’s bill was sponsored by MKs Betzalel Smotrich (Habayit Hayehudi) and Roy Folkman (Kulanu). Folkman explained that the bill “Is directed primarily at organizations that work against Israel,” that is, promote boycotts, divestment and sanctions, and that “all told the law changes the prism from the current situation in which visas are automatically granted … to a situation in which entry will automatically be barred unless the interior minister decides to permit it.”
That “all told” is not innocent, but disingenuous. The true purpose of the bill is to impose a sweeping sanction on anyone who doesn’t accept the Israeli occupation policy, and on anyone who believes that a boycott of the settlements or of Israel – which facilitates the settlements and their prosperity – may help halt this 50-year-old injustice. It’s not concern for Israel that is motivating the bill’s sponsors and its supporters, but the silencing of foreigners who oppose the occupation.
Folkman’s dissembling was revealed in a shameful fashion, when during the debate in committee, a representative of the Justice Ministry suggested exempting Palestinians with residency permits who live in Israel under family unification procedures. To this request, committee chairman MK David Amsalem said, “Why should I let someone into my home who denigrates and undermines the state?” while Smotrich added, “Whoever isn’t embarrassed to accept a favor or privilege while spitting in our faces during a probation period should be the first to lose his residency permit.”
So it’s clear that the true purpose of the law is to be a disproportionate whip against whoever criticizes Israeli policy, even if we’re talking about Palestinians whose lives are rooted in Israel and whose residency permit is in any case held as collateral. It’s not far-fetched to assume that the next stage will be preventing the entry of Israelis living abroad who express support for boycotts. Equally absurd is the possibility of any Jew living abroad who supports boycotting the settlements will be entitled to immigrate to Israel, but will not be able to enter the country under the new law.
If the bill indeed passes its final readings and is implemented, a “blacklist” will be input into the border inspection computers and anyone appearing on it will be stopped at Ben-Gurion Airport. This, together with enforcement of the Anti-Boycott Law, which applies to Israeli citizens, will turn Israel into a model of McCarthyism.
Boycotts for political reasons are a legitimate tool that falls under the protection of freedom of political expression. Nationalist and messianic MKs must not be allowed to turn Israel into a closed, reclusive fortress. This unnecessary bill should be removed from the Knesset’s agenda.
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