Editorial

Israel’s anti-BDS Blacklists

Israel’s government is stepping up the oppression of its critics, and will continue to do so unless and until it is stopped

FILE PHOTO: People stage a scene as demonstraters hold a banner reading "Boycott Israel" during a demonstration against Israel's military operations in Gaza in Paris.
FILE PHOTO: People stage a scene as demonstraters hold a banner reading "Boycott Israel" during a demonstration against Israel's military operations in Gaza in Paris. KENZO TRIBOUILLARD / AFP

The state this week began to implement the draconian law that prohibits entry to foreigners who support an economic, cultural or academic boycott of Israel or of the settlements, by submitting to international airlines passenger blacklists.

Representatives Lufthansa told five members of an interfaith delegation, including three Jewish-American activists, that they would not be allowed to board their flight because of instructions the airline had received from Israeli immigration authorities. The Interior Ministry in Jerusalem confirmed that their entry was barred because they were activists who were involved in promoting a boycott of Israel.

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One of the activists who was barred from boarding the flight, Alissa Wise, had visited Israel no less than nine times in the past, mainly in connection to her rabbinical studies. Her objection to military rule in the territories and support for a boycott as a nonviolent means of resistance were sufficient reason for the state to declare her a persona non grata.

According to a document issued this week by the Interior Ministry’s Population, Immigration and Border Authority in cooperation with the Ministry for Strategic Affairs — the latter is headed by Gilad Erdan, who has taken the lead in implementing the law — from now on, foreign nationals who engage in “concrete, consistent and continuous activity to promote boycotts in the framework of the prominent delegitimization organizations or independently” will be barred from entering Israel.

This extreme measure that the Netanyahu government has chosen to take against opponents of the occupation, including Diaspora Jews who are otherwise entitled to immigrate to Israel, raises questions not only about this government’s ability to contend with legitimate criticism in a democratic society, but also about the antidemocratic tools that were chosen to fight it.

Blacklists of this kind require systematic spying on, surveillance and “tagging” of political activists worldwide. A properly run state cannot tolerate the existence of a wide-ranging, covert thought police of this kind, which categorizes foreign citizens according to their opinions in order to silence them.

Israel’s right-wing government is stepping up its means of oppression against its critics, and will continue to do so unless and until it is stopped. This can only be done by a strong, united opposition, which views the preservation of democracy and freedom of expression as a necessary condition for the future of Israel.

The above article is Haaretz's lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.