Editorial

Israel's New Travel Ban: Boycotting the Truth

The new law plays into the hands of those who seek to destroy Israel and penalizes those who support its existence but oppose the occupation.

A BDS demonstration in southern France, June 2015.
A BDS demonstration in southern France, June 2015. George Robert, AP

The Knesset passed the second and third readings of a private member’s bill submitted by lawmakers Bezalel Smotrich (Habayit Hayehudi) and Roy Folkman (Kulanu) banning entry and residence visas to non-Israelis who call for an economic, cultural or academic boycott of Israel, or of “an area under its control,” that is, the settlements.

The law is part of the rightist-nationalist government trend of turning Israel into a bastion against anyone who chooses to oppose the current Israeli policy by using a legitimate tool of nonviolent protest in a democratic society – boycott. From now on, entry to Israel will be prohibited to non-Israelis or persons without a permanent residency visa if they, or the organization or entity they represent, “knowingly issues a public call for boycotting Israel” or “pledged to take part in a boycott” of products produced in the settlements, for example. The ban will apply unless the interior minister decides to give such a person a special visa.

Thus the Netanyahu coalition continues to intentionally blur the 1967 boundaries, actually playing into the hands of those who seek to destroy sovereign Israel entirely, and penalize those who support its existence but oppose the occupation. Among the latter are many Jews throughout the world who work for the existence of the State of Israel alongside a Palestinian state by opposing the settlements. From now on, absurdly, these people will also be barred from entering Israel, which defines itself as the state of the entire Jewish people.

Not only the relationship with the Jews of the Diaspora is endangered by the new law; so are diplomatic ties. In discussion in 2011 of the boycott law, the Foreign Ministry’s legal adviser noted with regard to the possibility of denying entry to Israel of people who called for a boycott: “The law could damage Israel’s ties to the European Union.”

Indeed, the EU and some of its member countries now differentiate between Israel and the territories in terms of funding, the marking of products and agricultural imports. Will Israel now bar entry from EU leaders and officials? Will it bar leaders of countries that differentiate between Israel and the territories?

The purpose of the law is not to protect Israel, but to protect the settlements. It is intended to hurt opponents of the regime and frighten them by blacklisting them and imposing sanctions. Smotrich, one of the law’s framers, explained: “What does this law say, after all? A healthy person who loves those who love him and hates those who hate him does not turn the other cheek.” In this case, Israel has done exactly the opposite: It has slapped those who love it and strengthened those who hate it.