Israel is intensifying its campaign against foreign pro-Palestinian activists, announcing that it will establish a task force to identify and deport or deny entry to individuals who support the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement targeting the Israeli occupation.
Israeli Minister of the Interior Aryeh Deri and Israeli Minister of Public Security Gilad Erdan announced the move on Sunday.
The task force is to attempt to locate hundreds of activists already in Israel and deny entry to others trying get in. Israel has a long history of denying entry to those it says are damaging to its interests, but the latest proposal marks a new escalation against the BDS movement and activists.
According to Israeli media reports, a number of as yet unnamed groups active in Palestine have already been listed.
Since Israeli naval forces intercepted Turkish aid boat Mavi Marmara in 2010, killing nine people, the so-called delegitimization department of the Israeli military intelligence research division has routinely monitored the activities of groups abroad. Since an attempted “Flytilla” — an attempted mass arrival by air that followed the Mavi Marmara incident — Israel has increased its efforts to prevent entry by activists, using a range of tactics.
Foreign campaigners with the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) and other groups have long been a prominent feature of the protest landscape in Palestine, attending demonstrations and visiting flashpoint locations.
Many, including ISM volunteers, come on tourist visas, but stay for prolonged periods. A key focus in recent years has been BDS — a Palestinian-led international movement that seeks to introduce sanctions against Israel.
A joint statement by the two ministers accused activists of going to Palestine to “agitate the local residents against the security forces and disrupt their activity.”
“The battle of the boycott organizations against Israel begins with the people who come to sabotage inside Israel,” Deri said. “It is our duty to do everything possible to weaken the boycott.”
“Boycott activists must not be allowed to enter Israel,” Erdan said.
The moves were condemned by BDS spokesman Abdulrahman Abunahel.
“Deporting BDS activists in order to silence them and undermine their principled support for Palestinian human rights is not only anti-democratic; it is yet another incident of Israel shooting itself in the foot,” he said. “If anything, we expect such acts of heightened repression to boost support for boycotting Israel back in these activists’ home countries.”
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