Rabbi Alissa Wise sits on steps with a shirt that says "Palestinians should be free"
In July 2017, Rabbi Alissa Wise, Deputy Director of Jewish Voice for Peace, became the first rabbi banned from entering Israel for supporting BDS. (Photo/Courtesy Rabbi Alissa Wise)

JVP among 20 groups banned from Israel for BDS support

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Oakland-based Jewish Voice for Peace is one of six U.S. groups whose leaders will be banned from entering Israel because their organizations support the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement.

The Israeli Ministry of Strategic Affairs yesterday released a list of 20 international organizations covered by the ban, which takes effect on March 1. The move came 10 months after the Knesset approved a bill forbidding entry visa or residency rights to foreigners who call for economic, cultural or academic boycotts of Israel or its West Bank settlements.

Along with JVP, U.S.-based groups included on the list are American Friends Service Committee, Code Pink, American Muslims for Palestine, National Students for Justice in Palestine and the U.S. Campaign for Palestinian Rights.

Rebecca Vilkomerson, executive director of JVP, said in a Twitter message that “we will not be bullied by these attempts to punish us for a principled political stance that increasing numbers of Jews and non-Jews support worldwide.”

Senior members of the 20 organizations as well as high-profile activists will be barred from entry, though the ban will not apply to people who hold Israeli citizenship.

Vilkomerson, who wrote in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz that her grandparents are buried in Israel and her in-laws still live there, said in the Twitter message that the ban will cause her personal hardship.

“But I am also heartened by this indicator of the BDS movement’s growing strength, and hope that it will bring the day closer when just as I go to visit my friends and family in Israel, so will Palestinian friends and colleagues be able to return home.”

The Ministry of Strategic Affairs said the ban was a move that any country would make to prevent entry to “critics coming to harm the country.”

“The State of Israel will actively prevent such groups from spreading their falsehoods and odious methods from within the country,” added Strategic Affairs Minister Gilad Erdan. “The boycott organizations need to know that the State of Israel will act against them.”

Interior Minister Aryeh Deri, whose ministry will be in charge of enforcing the entry ban, also defended the policy.

“These people are trying to exploit the law and our hospitality to act against Israel and to defame the country,” he said. “I will act against this by every means.”

But Israeli opposition leaders today attacked the blacklist, saying BDS activists can do more harm outside Israel and that allowing them into the country would lead them to a better understanding of Israel’s situation.

“BDS activists are detestable, but this is an idiotic idea,” said Yair Lapid, chairman of the Yesh Atid party and a member of Knesset. “So our policy to fight boycotts is by implementing another boycott?”

In July of 2017, JVP Deputy Director Rabbi Alissa Wise became the first rabbi refused entry to the country over her pro-BDS position.

Rob Gloster

Rob Gloster z"l was J.'s senior writer from 2016-2019.