According to a list released by Israel’s Strategic Affairs Ministry on Sunday, high profile members and officers of 20 global human rights organisations will be banned from entering Israel or Palestine. The list includes three UK organisations – the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC), Friends of Al Aqsa and War on Want.
In March 2017, Hugh Lanning, Chair of PSC, became the first high profile human rights campaigner to be denied access to Israel under the so called anti-boycott law passed in 2016.
Since then Israel has also, under this and other laws, denied entry to representatives of Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and Jewish Voice for Peace. Israeli civil society organisations and human rights activists have also been subject to restrictions on their rights to campaign, freedom of movement and speech.
The release by Israel of a list of banned organisations is not a surprise, given the erosion of democratic norms by the Israeli government in recent years. Alongside this law, Israel has passed a series of measures though the Knesset that seek to limit the freedoms of groups inside and outside Israel to campaign on behalf of the rights of Palestinians.
Hugh Lanning, PSC Chair, said:
“This latest announcement should be a wakeup call for the UK government and all those who continue to describe Israel as a normal liberal democracy. Liberal democracies do not prevent entry to individuals whose only offence is to draw attention to human rights abuses and to call for non-violent action to address them. Only states that wish to protect their ability to act unjustly behave in this way.
Boris Johnson must take robust action to protect the rights of UK citizens to protest peacefully and to cross borders without illegitimate restriction. He should make clear that the UK Government will not cooperate with these measures.
Neither the PSC nor any of its members will be intimidated by such measures; they are a mark of Israel’s increasing desperation in the face of the growth in global support for the tactic of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions. BDS is a non-violent means of holding Israel to account for its violations of international law and its denial of the rights of the Palestinian people.”
Ben Jamal, PSC Director, said:
“Through this measure, Israel not only seeks to prevent peaceful human rights activists from entering Israel, but also from entering Palestine. This includes members of PSC and other organisations who, like myself, are of Palestinian origin and who have family and friends in Palestine. In April 2017, PSC’s Vice Chair, senior academic Kamel Hawwash, was separated from his family at the airport, whilst visiting family in Jerusalem.
Israel is also seeking to prevent contact between Palestinian civil society, unions and other organisations, and their UK counterparts as part of an attempt to isolate Palestinians from the outside world and to prevent the outside world from bearing witness to Israel’s violation of Palestinian rights. All of those across the globe who care about human rights and civil liberties will regard such actions as an affront to democratic values.
This ban will only serve to reinforce our determination to continue campaigning alongside all of those in Israel, Palestine and across the globe working to achieve freedom, justice and equality for all in the Middle East. All those in the UK who share these aims should take this opportunity to demonstrate their solidarity by joining PSC as members.”