Boycotting the World

Israel's decision to intensify it's battle against Diaspora Jews and opinion-makers around the world raises questions about their ability to deal with nonviolent political criticism

Police forced to intervene after anti-Netanyahu protesters stop pro-BDS anarchists from joining Tel Aviv protest
Hagar Shezaf

The Strategic Affairs Ministry, which has been dismantled and resurrected over the years in response to political circumstances and has recently reinvented itself under Minister Gilad Erdan, on Sunday released the list of 20 organizations whose activists will not be allowed entry to Israel because of their support for boycotts of Israel as a means to fight the occupation.

This is in accordance with the draconian amendment to the Law of Entry passed last March, which states that an entry visa will not be given to anyone if he, or the organization or agency on whose behalf he acts, knowingly publicized a call to boycott the State of Israel.

It is not clear how the list was drawn up, because the ministry refuses to disclose its covert ways of doing things. Among the organizations on the list are the American organization Jewish Voice for Peace, the Quaker organization American Friends Service Committee, which won a Nobel Prize in 1947 for its work helping victims of the Nazis, and a group whose patron is British Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn.

Thus Israel is not just intensifying its battle against liberal Diaspora Jews, who are still entitled to immigrate to Israel under the Law of Return, it is targeting prominent organizations and individuals who are opinion-makers in their countries. Instead of persuading others of the justice of Israels path by diplomatic means, as is customary in a democracy, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahus government has decided to boycott the world in return.

Data obtained by Haaretz shows that since the amendment was passed, some 25 political activists who support boycotts, divestment and sanctions against Israel have been denied entry; some of them were Jews. This extreme step raises questions about the ability of the current government to deal with nonviolent political criticism of its activities in the territories, as well as the decidedly undemocratic tools chosen to confront this criticism. Blacklists of this type, as Erdans own ministry admits, require the identification and marking of foreign political activists and the transfer of their names to the enforcement authorities. This is not something that should be taking place in an orderly country, and especially not in secret.

The Strategic Affairs Ministry must disclose its work methods. The dubious means aimed at evading basic criteria of transparency are far from convincing anyone that these are legitimate actions in a democratic government. If the ministry is convinced that its doing the right thing, let it disclose its methods to the public and stop acting like an intelligence agency of some benighted country.

But transparency is not enough. This blacklist is part of the central project for which the Netanyahu government is responsible – intensifying the occupation while trying to eliminate any internal or external criticism. Instead of listening to its critics, the government is choosing to silence those trying to save it from itself, and is insisting on sending Israel into the abyss.