Public Security and Strategic Affairs Minister Gilad Erdan and Interior Minister Arye Dery decided at a meeting on Sunday to establish a joint taskforce that will work to prevent the entry into Israel of foreign activists from organizations that support the boycott of Israel. The team will also work to deport those who have already entered the country.
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The team will not seek the passage of new legislation or to tighten provisions of existing legislation. Instead it will primarily be aimed at gathering intelligence making it possible identify the foreign activists who are in Israel and to collect evidence in support of their deportation.
A senior official who attended the meeting spoke to Haaretz but asked not to be identified. He said staff from the Strategic Affairs Ministry, which is responsible for coordinating the fight against the Boycott, Sanctions and Divestment Movement, also known as BDS, told the meeting that dozens of organizations are operating in the West Bank, in various capacities, to collect information about Israel Defense Forces activities in the territories and to use it to promote the boycott of Israel and to isolate the country. Israel Police representatives at the meeting contended that BDS activists are provoking West Bank residents against IDF forces and disrupting their operations.
According to assessments presented at the meeting, several hundred foreign BDS activists have entered the country through Ben-Gurion International Airport or the Allenby Bridge from Jordan under the guise of being tourists. Some leave after a short stay but others remain in the West Bank for long periods. Some formally belong to BDS organizations but others do not.
The senior official noted that the new task force will define the criteria by which a foreign activist will be marked for deportation or barred from entry. The task force will also determine what legal grounds will be required for such a move. From a legal standpoint, it’s unclear whether specific evidence against individual activists will be required, or whether membership in an “incriminated” group will form sufficient grounds for deportation or prevention of entry.
According to the senior official, “there are foreign groups that support the boycott against Israel that have already been marked as a target by the Ministry for Strategic Affairs.” The official refused to specify, but it’s likely the list would include groups like the International Solidarity Movement, which has members in the West Bank.
The senior official added that in their meeting, Erdan and Dery stressed that Israel has no intention of carrying out a mass deportation of foreign leftist and human-rights activists in the West Bank. Instead, Israel seeks to focus on foreign nationals who are proven to have arrived in the country to promote the boycott, foster unrest or encourage riots in the West Bank.
Israel intends to consider its actions on a case-by-case basis, the senior official said. “For instance, we’ll have to think whether deporting certain individuals will benefit or harm Israeli interests. If it’s a foreign national whose pro-boycott activities are minor, and he is mainly involved in promoting human rights then we have no problem with that. But if it’s a group which is mainly involved in promoting the boycott and delegitimization of Israel then we have no interest in him coming in here,” the official said.
Dery said in a statement that Israel must do everything in order to “dissolve the boycott against it.” Erdan said that stopping boycott supporters from entering Israel is an obvious step “considering the malicious intentions of those delegitimization activists who act to disseminate lies and distort reality in our region. The boycott of Israel must carry a price."