Media: Israel OK's bill banning foreign boycott activists

By The Associated Press | Posted - Mar. 6, 2017 at 3:35 p.m.

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JERUSALEM (AP) — Israeli media outlets reported Monday that parliament has approved a bill prohibiting entry to foreign activists calling for a boycott against the country.

The newspaper Haaretz said the ban applies to any activist "who knowingly issues a public call for boycotting Israel that, given the content of the call and the circumstances in which it was issued, has a reasonable possibility of leading to the imposition of a boycott - if the issuer was aware of this possibility."

It also applies to activists who call for boycotts of Israeli institutions in any "area under its control," meaning settlements, Haaretz said.

The interior ministry can make exceptions in some cases, it said.

The bill is aimed at combating an international movement known as BDS that seeks to ostracize Israel by lobbying corporations, artists and academic institutions to sever ties with the Jewish state. BDS supporters say they are using nonviolent means to promote the Palestinian struggle for independence. The movement has grown into a global network of thousands of volunteers, from campus activists to church groups as well as some Jews.

Israel says the campaign goes beyond fighting its occupation of territory Palestinians claim for a state and often masks a more far-reaching aim to delegitimize or destroy the Jewish state.

Some critics accuse the BDS movement of anti-Semitism because it singles out Israel for boycott while overlooking the Palestinian part in the conflict and ignoring countries with poor human rights records.

The bill was cheered by nationalist lawmakers. Bezalel Smotrich from the Jewish Home party was quoted by Haaretz as saying: "What does this law say, after all? A healthy person who loves those who love him and hates those who hate him doesn't turn the other cheek."

Opposition lawmaker Tamar Zandberg from Israel's dovish Meretz party criticized the bill, calling it a "law that is against freedom of expression, that constitutes political censorship and is meant to silence people." Haaretz quoted her as saying, "It's ostensibly against the boycotters of Israel but it doesn't make a distinction between Israel and the settlements and it thus serves the BDS movement."

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