American Jewish Committee Says 'Troubled' by Israel's New Travel Ban

Despite own opposition to BDS movement, organization says anti-boycott law will not 'help Israel's image as the beacon of democracy in the Middle East it is.'

A demonstration calling for the boycott of Israel, in Paris, 2014.
AP

WASHINGTON - The American Jewish Committee expressed concern on Tuesday over the Knesset’s approval of a bill forbidding supporters of boycotts of Israel or the settlements from entering Israel. In a statement, the organization said it was "troubled" by the bill's passage, despite its own strong opposition to the BDS movement and to boycotts against Israel.

The AJC, one of the oldest active Jewish organizations in the U.S., is considered a centrist, mainstream Jewish American organization and in recent years it has led different initiatives to push back against BDS and boycotts of Israel. Therefore, its statement against the new bill is significant, since it means that not only left-wing Jewish organizations in the U.S. see the new legislation as problematic. 

"Every nation, of course, is entitled to regulate who can enter," the statement said. "AJC, as a longtime, staunch friend of Israel and opponent of the BDS movement, fully sympathizes with the underlying desire to defend the legitimacy of the State of Israel." The organization's CEO, David Harris, explained, however, that "as history has amply shown throughout the democratic world, barring entry to otherwise qualified visitors on the basis of their political views will not by itself defeat BDS, nor will it help Israel’s image as the beacon of democracy in the Middle East it is." 

Harris added that this new policy would not allow Israel and Israelis to "offer opportunities to expose [supporters of BDS] to the exciting and pulsating reality of Israel.” The headline of the statement, as distributed by the organization, was "AJC questions ban on BDS proponents entering Israel."

Other Jewish-American organizations that have spoken out against the new bill so far include the New Israel Fund, whose leadership strongly denounced the bill.

J Street, a leading leftist Jewish group, said in a statement that it was "alarmed" by the legislation and that "there are strong supporters and friends of Israel who participate in or advocate for targeted boycotts of the settlement enterprise beyond the Green Line, motivated by a desire to oppose the occupation and support the two-state solution. While J Street does not share their views, we respect their motivations and we are outraged by the idea that they would be denied entry to Israel on the basis of political discrimination."