TEL AVIV – In a first, Israel denied entry to a Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement activist who arrived at Ben-Gurion airport Monday on a tourist visa.
Dr. Isabel Phiri, Associate General Secretary for the World Council of Churches (WCC) for Public Witness and Diakonia, was stopped at the airport at the behest of Interior Minister Aryeh Deri – the first case of its kind since a Knesset bill was introduced allowing authorities to bar supporters of the boycott Israel movement from visiting the country.
“To approve the entry of activists like Phiri would strengthen their unacceptable activities, and I have no intention of giving this to them. I will use all my authority to prevent damage to Israel,” Deri said.
Strategic Affairs Minister Gilad Erdan spearheaded the anti-BDS legislation.
“We will continue to prevent BDS activists from entering, as their purpose is to undermine Israel by gathering information and presenting it in a distorted and false manner. BDS activists belong outside the country, and we will continue to pursue the measures at our disposal to prevent them from entering Israel,” Erdan said.
Through its member groups, the WCC, which represents some 550 million Christians in 110 countries, oversees several campaigns aimed at delegitimizing the Jewish state, including organized tours in Israel with the purpose of gathering damning evidence of Israelis oppressing Palestinians. The WCC routinely demonizes Israeli “apartheid,” “collective punishment,” “war crimes” against Palestinians, and “illegal occupation of Palestinian lands,” Israeli website Arutz 7 reported.
The WCC issued a statement slamming the move, accusing Israel of “antagonism” and saying the charges against Phiri and the WCC were “completely false.”
The WCC further stated that it has “instructed its legal representatives to immediately lodge an appeal against ‘this patently unjust and discriminatory action against Phiri.'”
Haaretz cited Sharon Dolev, an Israeli volunteer for the WCC, who claimed that the council “simply isn’t a BDS organization.”