Denial of entry for BDS activists
Why are BDS and boycott supporters now refused entry into Israel?
Recent Israeli legislation has seen denial of entry for BDS activists become much more likely. As part of the Israeli government’s campaign against de-legitimization and boycotts against Israel, the law of Entry into Israel was amended, establishing the legal grounds for consistent denial of entry for BDS supporters or other activists supporting a boycott against Israel. Our law office in Tel Aviv specializes in immigration and entry into Israel. Other articles on the site explain what happens when visitors are refused permission to enter Israel for non-security-related reasons and how to avoid arrest and deportation. This article by Joshua Pex, an Israeli lawyer and partner in our Law office in Israel, will explain the reasons for refusing entry to activists supporting a boycott against Israel, and what can be done in order to appeal this decision in cases such as mistaken identification.
What are the reasons why the State of Israel decided on denial of entry for BDS supporters?
The Israeli state’s position is that the campaign of de-legitimization in general and the boycotts in particular pose a significant threat in the medium to long term to the national strength and security of the State of Israel. Amendment 28 (March 2017) to the Entry into Israel Law states:
“A visa and residence permit of any kind shall not be issued to a person who is not an Israeli citizen or a holder of a permanent residence permit in the State of Israel if he, the organization or body for which he is acting, knowingly published a public call for a boycott of the State of Israel, as defined in the Prevention of Harm to the State of Israel through Boycott Law, 2011, or has undertaken to participate in such a boycott.”
What are the restrictions? Are all Palestinian supporters banned from entering Israel?
In recent years, a number of famous political activists, such as Prof. Noam Chomsky, a world scholar in the field of linguistics, and Mrs. Mairead Maguire (Nobel peace laureate who participated in the Mavi Marmara flotilla) have been denied entry into Israel. As can be seen from these examples, the recent amendments to the law merely codify and expand an ongoing tendency regarding refusal of entry to Israel. It should be noted that the director of border control has broad powers to refuse entry into Israel on the basis of “security considerations” and support for organizations hostile to Israel even without this specific amendment of the Law of Entry to Israel.
Theoretically, it is not enough to be a member of a pro-Palestinian organization to be denied entry as a BDS supporter according to the latest amendment. Denial of entry for BDS supporters is supposed to refer specifically to activists in organizations that promote (or individual activists who promote) a boycott of Israel in a manner that is “active, continuous and lasting“. In addition, the activist must be a senior or “central” figure in the organization to be refused entry. But while “senior” is a qualification that can be objectively proven or disproved, “central” is a very vague description.
The ban is not restricted to “activists” in political organizations – recently, a diplomatic delegation of the European Parliament, which included mayors and members of Parliament who support the boycott, were refused entry to Israel. The chairman of the Palestinian Solidarity Campaign was also denied entry.
The Ministry of Interior has discretion to allow activists who support the boycott to enter Israel.
There is always the possibility that the MoI (Ministry of Interior) will make a decision to authorize the entry into Israel of a person who is supposed to be denied entry as a BDS supporter. In this case, an attorney may appeal to the Ministry of the Interior or to the courts, and argue that the benefit of said person’s entry into Israel is greater than the damage they may cause. Humanitarian or political concerns may sway the Ministry of Interior’s decision. In addition, it is clear that a person who was invited to Israel by the state or has an official position In relations between Israel and other countries, may reasonably receive an entry permit regardless of said person’s political stance.
If you have been denied entry at one of Israel’s border crossings, please contact our law office in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.