Knesset Bill Banning BDS Supporters From Israel Damages Israel’s Democracy – And Helps BDS Movement

March 6, 2017

J Street is alarmed by the Knesset’s passage of a bill that bans entry to Israel of foreign nationals who call for economic, cultural or academic boycotts of either Israel or the territory it controls beyond the Green Line.

The bill is the latest piece of Israeli legislation to undermine Israel’s own democratic principles and its international standing. As a liberal democracy, Israel should be able to tolerate non-violent political protest and dissent, no matter how much it disagrees with the ideology or goals of BDS supporters.

J Street is opposed to the Global BDS Movement and does not support any form of boycott, divestment or sanctions against Israel. But we believe that BDS supporters have a right to their opinions and to non-violent political action.

This bill will do nothing to deter the Global BDS Movement – indeed it hands them a victory. The bill will further isolate the country, validate Israel’s critics and deny many people the opportunity to hear and learn from Israelis and Palestinians firsthand.

Moreover, by failing to meaningfully distinguish between Israel and the territory it controls over the Green Line, the bill validates one of the main charges of the Global BDS Movement: that there is no difference between the occupation of the Palestinian territory and the state of Israel within its original borders. The Israeli government’s continued insistence that the settlements should be treated the same as Israel within the Green Line advances the interest of a small right-wing minority at the expense of Israel’s long-term interests.

We note that there are strong supporters and friends of Israel who participate in or advocate for targeted boycotts of the settlement enterprise beyond the Green Line, motivated by a desire to oppose the occupation and support the two-state solution. While J Street does not share their views, we respect their motivations and we are outraged by the idea that they would be denied entry to Israel on the basis of political discrimination.

We hope that all those who care about Israel’s future and about its democracy will oppose this bill, and we urge the the Knesset and the Israeli government to take steps to overturn or revoke this dangerous and counterproductive legislation.

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