MK Set to Ask High Court to Quash Ban on His Jewish Voice for Peace-funded Lecture Tour

MK Yousef Jabareen slated to petition against Ethics Committee decision keeping him from U.S. talks paid for by organization that supports BDS movement

Israeli Lawmaker Youseff Jabareen (right) in the Knesset, 2016
Olivier Fitoussi

Knesset member Yousef Jabareen (Joint List) is expected to petition the High Court of Justice on Sunday against a decision of the Knesset Ethics Committee to bar him from traveling to the United States for a lecture tour at the invitation of and funded by Jewish Voice for Peace. The group appears on the so-called “blacklist” of organizations that support the BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions) movement against Israel compiled by the Strategic Affairs Ministry.

In January, the Ethics Committee approved an amendment to its rules that makes it possible to prevent organizations calling for a boycott against Israel or the settlements from funding MKs’ trips abroad for participation in conferences or other events. The amendment to the rules allows the Ethics Committee to “consider withholding approval” of the funding of such a trip. The amendment does not prevent MKs from participating in any such events, only to accept funding for them.

Jabareen’s High Court appeal of the committee’s decision from a month ago would put the new rules to the test for the first time. He is the first MK to ask the Ethics Committee for approval for such funding by an organization that supports BDS after the change in rules.

Ethics Committee chairman Yitzhak Vaknin (Shas) said last month that committee members had asked the Strategic Affairs Ministry for more information on Jewish Voice for Peace. A response given by Public Security and Strategic Affairs Minister Gilad Erdan noted that the organization “is currently considered one of the leading boycott organizations in the United States, declaring its support for BDS as a nonviolent tool that will compel the State of Israel to change its policy and relinquish ‘the occupied territories.’”

Jabareen denounced the decision as another attempt to limit the actions of Arab MKs, calling it an expression of the “tyranny of the majority that wants to prevent us from representing our voting public in a significant and appropriate manner.”

The petition, which will be filed by lawyers from Adalah – The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, states that the new ethics rules limit freedom of political expression and freedom of movement of MKs. In addition, it characterizes the Ethics Committee’s decision as an attempt to prevent Jabareen’s participation in events that are clearly related to his activities as a member of Knesset.

“This limitation does not derive from the fact that there is in his expressions or actions any ethical or criminal violation, or because of the existence of any ban on a Knesset member to be in contact with the organization financing [the events],” states the High Court petition. “It only stems from the body that is funding the trip having a certain political position toward the policy of the government of Israel, and it is numbered among those calling for a boycott of the State of Israel in order to put an end to the occupation of the 1967 territories.”