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Hugh Lanning, chair of Palestine Solidarity Campaign, last night became the first victim of a law passed by the Knesset last week banning those advocating BDS from entering Israel.

The law states that visas or residence permits will not be granted to anyone who individually calls for a boycott of the state of Israel, or who is part of an organisation that calls for a boycott of the state of Israel. The ban extends to those who call for a boycott of any areas under the control of Israel, including settlements in the West Bank, which are regarded as illegal under international law.

Israel’s restriction of British citizens’ freedom to travel has the potential to see many parliamentarians, from all political parties banned from visiting Israel or the Occupied Palestinian Territories due to their support of banning the import of illegal settlement goods to the UK. Prominent figures such as trade union leaders, cultural figures and academics could also be banned.

The law is part of a range of actions Israel has taken in recent months targeting human rights activists. Last week a Human Rights Watch member of staff was denied a work permit to enter Israel.   Ian Levine, Deputy Executive Director of Programmes at Human Rights Watch stated “This decision and the spurious rationale should worry anyone concerned about Israel’s commitment to basic democratic values.  It is disappointing that the Israeli government seems unable or unwilling to distinguish between justified criticisms of its actions and hostile political propaganda.”

Commenting on Hugh Lanning’s deportation under the boycott law, Ben Jamal, Director of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign said,

“Last week, the Knesset passed a law to ban entry to foreigners who advocate the non-violent boycott, divestment and sanctions movement. Last night, the first victim of this new law was PSC chair Hugh Lanning, who was detained overnight and deported from Israel this morning. We believe that he is now permanently barred from the country. In the past Hugh has been able to travel many times to visit Israel and Occupied Palestine. 

By introducing this law, Israel is violating fundamental freedoms essential to a democracy- the right to free speech, to criticise government policies and human rights violations, the right to advocate non-violent actions to address human rights abuses, the right of free movement and travel. A democratic country does not behave in the way Israel is behaving.

If Israel believes that by introducing these draconian undemocratic laws it will intimidate its critics into silence it is mistaken. The PSC will not stop raising its  voice to highlight the systematic violation of Palestinian human rights in Gaza, the West Bank, and Israel itself.

We call upon all those who care about democratic values to join us in condemning the deportation of Hugh Lanning and the passing of this repressive law. We call upon the British Government to make clear to Israel that it is not acceptable for it to ban entry to British citizens whose only crime is to advocate for human rights of the Palestinian people and to protest against policies that violate those rights .”