Law Passed By Knesset Banning Israel Boycotters Entry to the Country

University of Ottawa
AP/Mike Groll

TEL AVIV – Legislation blocking anti-Israel boycott activists from entering the country was passed by the Knesset with a vote of 46-28 in favor in the final reading on Monday.

The bill prevents foreign nationals involved with the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement or who publicly express support of boycotts against the Jewish state from being granted visas.

“If someone demeans me, I do not let them into my home,” Knesset Interior Committee chairman MK David Amsalem (Likud), who presented the bill, said. “If anyone insults us, we respond; this law is elementary.”

The law also extends to people who call for the boycott of any Israeli institution and all “areas under its control” – i.e., supporters of boycotts of West Bank settlement products.

The interior minister reserves the right to make any exceptions to the law.

MK Roy Folkman (Kulanu), who sponsored the bill, said the bill was necessary to protect Israel’s “honor.”

“It is possible to feel both national pride and also to believe in human rights. It is also possible to defend the name and honor of the State of Israel and this is no embarrassment,” he said, according to a Knesset spokesperson.

MK Bezalel Smotrich (Jewish Home), who helped initiate the bill, said it proves that Israel “won’t turn the other cheek” against the “new anti-Semitic front.”

Amsalem said that he is not against legitimate criticism of Israel but that the law was designed to penalize those who were not just “talking about boycotting only the settlements; [but who] are talking about boycotting the state as a state, without any distinction. We are talking about anti-Semites here,” he said.

Critics of the bill have claimed it silences any legitimate censure of Israeli policy.

“Instead of fighting to preserve the Israeli democracy, Amsalem is inspired by dark regimes, like the former Soviet Union, and asks to target everyone who disagrees with the government,” said MK Zouheir Bahloul (Zionist Union). “The State of Israel creates with it own hands the ammunition for BDS activists and I call for a stop to this madness that this right-wing government is leading us into.”

MK Ayman Odeh (Joint List) said that he met American Jews who support boycotts of the settlements and oppose the occupation.

“I am also against the occupation and for boycotting the settlements, which are a war crime and an act of theft of private land from [Palestinian] people. So saying that people cannot enter because they support the boycott of settlements will serve to ensure Israel’s exclusion throughout the world,” Odeh said.

Last week, Israel barred Human Rights Watch Israel and Palestine Director Omar Shakir from entering the country for the second time in under a month for initiating boycott campaigns. However, on Monday he was granted permission to enter the country.