In First, Knesset Bars Israeli Lawmaker From Overseas Trip Sponsored by Pro-boycott Organization

Yousef Jabareen of the Arab Joint List requested to fly abroad for a series of lectures funded by Jewish Voice for Peace, but was refused

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

For the first time, the Knesset Ethics Committee has decided to bar an MK from traveling abroad on a trip subsidized by an organization that supports a boycott of Israel.

Knesset member Yousef Jabareen of the predominantly Arab Joint List party was informed on Tuesday by committee chairman Yitzhak Vaknin (Shas) that the committee had decided to refuse his request to fly abroad for a series of lectures in April to be funded by Jewish Voice for Peace. The group appears on a Strategic Affairs Ministry list of groups supporting BDS, the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement against Israel.

In January the Knesset House Committee called on the Ethics Committee to consider barring Knesset members from undertaking travel funded by groups on the Strategic Affairs Ministry list. Ethics Committee chairman Vaknin confirmed that the members of the committee had asked the Strategic Affairs Ministry for more information on Jewish Voice for Peace. A response provided by 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 non-violent tool that will compel the State of Israel to change its policy and relinquish ‘the occupied territories.’”

Writing to the committee, Erdan stated: “The group holds an annual meeting of its members, an event with clear BDS content with regard to the State of Israel. At its last convention, held in April 2017, there were a number of sessions that dealt among other matters with the academic boycott of Israel, the fight against anti-BDS legislation, activities strengthening the boycott by labor unions and the planning of campaigns against Israel on a number of fronts.” Erdan said the group also hosted Rasmea Odeh, who was convicted in the terrorist killing of two Israelis in the 1960s.

In a response to Haaretz, Jabareen told Haaretz: “The committee’s decision constitutes a harsh blow to my freedom of political activity as an elected official. Without funding from the group extending the invitation, I will of course not be able to travel, due to the large travel expense and the round of lectures that is planned. This is activity that is a fundamental and integral part of my role as an opposition Knesset member.”

Jabareen said he is considering challenging the committee’s decision to ban his travel plans by filing a petition to the High Court of Justice that would also challenge the ethics rule that authorized the ban. The rule constitutes “an extreme infringement on Knesset members’ freedom of expression and freedom of political activity,” he said.