Israel Bars British Pro-BDS Activist in First Public Use of New Law

Hugh Lanning
Israeli officials barred Hugh Lanning from entering the country Sunday. He is set to return to the U.K. on Monday. Flickr/Palestine Solidarity Campaign

Updated | Israel prevented Hugh Lanning, the chairman of Britain's Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC), from entering the country Sunday.

The move was the first public use of a law passed last week that permits the barring of anti-Israel boycott advocates.

In a joint statement, Israel's Population and Immigration Authority and the Ministry of Public Security said they decided to ban Lanning because of his efforts to propagate the boycott of Israel.

Israeli authorities were set to put Lanning on a flight back to the U.K. on Monday. The joint statement said the PSC was operating against Israel, seeking to delegitimize the country. It also said he had met with top Hamas officials in the Gaza Strip in 2012.

The Israeli embassy in the U.K. said in a statement that Lanning "is associated with the leaders of Hamas, which is designated as a terror group across the European Union; a group whose anti-Semitic charter calls for killing all Jews." Hamas has fought three wars with Israel since 2008.

The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement and the PSC condemned Israel's decision.

"Banning the entry of Hugh Lanning, a U.K. trade union leader and chair of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, will only give the massive solidarity movement more reasons to escalate BDS campaigning," the BDS movement said in a statement.

Ben Jamal, director of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, demanded that the British government, led by Prime Minister Theresa May, protest the barring of Lanning to its Israeli counterparts.

"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," he said in a statement.

"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."

His ban comes after Israeli lawmakers banned foreign nationals who support the boycott of Israel and its goods last Monday. The law will allow exceptions and will not apply to Israeli citizens or those with permanent residency.

Read more: Israel passes law banning foreigners who support boycott movement

Israeli Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan said the ban was "another step in our struggle against those who seek to delegitimize Israel while hiding behind the language of human rights, and they do it from time to time."

The BDS movement calls for a boycott of Israel or Israeli goods, including goods made in West Bank or East Jerusalem settlements, which the majority of the international community considers to be illegal under international law.

The campaign advocates applying economic and political pressure on Israel to achieve equal rights for Palestinians in the country and calls for an end to the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

Israel says the campaign is inherently anti-Semitic, and used by activists as another way to target the country. The campaign's activists deny this allegation, saying they want to see Israel's military occupation end.

Lanning and Erdan's spokesperson did not respond to Newsweek's request for comment.

This article has been updated to include the response of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement and the Palestine Solidarity Campaign.