Israel Passes Law Banning Foreigners Who Support Boycott Movement

BDS Movement
A Pro-Palestinian 'Gaza Beach' protestor holds a placard reading 'BDS (Boycotts, divestment and sanctions) during a gathering on the sidelines of 'Tel Aviv sur Seine', a beach event celebrating Tel Aviv, in central Paris on August 13, 2015. Israel on Monday passed a law that banned supporters of boycotts against the country's goods from entering the country. Kenzo Tribouillard/AFP/Getty

Israeli lawmakers on Monday banned foreign nationals who support the boycott of the country from entering its borders, drawing criticism from rights groups who said the government was using visa restrictions as "thought control."

Late Monday the Israeli parliament passed the bill 46 to 28 opposed. The ban will target individuals who publicly call 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 law will allow exceptions and will not apply to Israeli citizens or those with permanent residency.

"In recent years calls to boycott Israel have been growing," a statement on the Israeli parliament website said after the bill's approval. "It seems this is a new front in the war against Israel, which until now the country had not prepared for properly."

Read more: Israeli official calls for boycott of French goods after Paris labels settlement produce

The bill is aimed at combating the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement. 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.

Human rights groups and the Israeli opposition criticized the move to ban those opposed to Israel's policies. "We think that border control should not be used as thought control," Hagai El-Ad, executive director of prominent Israeli human rights group B'Tselem, told journalists on Tuesday, AFP news agency reported. Anti-settlement group Peace Now said the legislation was not "Jewish nor democratic."

In response to the ban, Omar Barghouti, co-founder of the BDS movement, drew comparisons between the Israeli law and to Trump's amended temporary travel ban signed on Monday, which left six Muslim-majority countries on the restricted list.

"Trump's terrible new Muslim and Arab ban coincides with the Israeli parliament passing its own ban—formally barring international human rights defenders who support Palestinian rights through BDS tactics. That Trump's ban and Israel's ban happened on the same day is telling," he said in a statement released late Monday.

"The nonviolent, inclusive, and clearly effective BDS movement is more than ever as an integral part of the rising global resistance to the far-right, in DC, Tel Aviv, and many cities in between."

Israeli Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan was quick to respond to criticism of the law on Tuesday. He said Israel and "every country has the right to determine who enters its border," and said the law 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."

Israel's government, one of the most right wing coalitions in the country's history, has been more proactive in battling the BDS movement, setting aside $32 million last year to challenge the campaign it considers to be a strategic threat.