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Israel follows apartheid South Africa with activist blacklist

Campaigners say they will not be bowed by Israel’s publication of a blacklist barring members of 20 human rights organizations from territory it controls.

 

Israel’s strategic affairs minister Gilad Erdan, who is in charge of efforts to thwart the BDS – boycott, divestment and sanctions – movement announced the blacklist on Sunday.

 

It includes Palestine solidarity and BDS activist organizations across Europe, in South America, South Africa and the United States, as well as the Palestine-based BDS National Committee.

 

Hassan Jabareen, the director of Adalah, a legal advocacy group for Palestinians in Israel, called the Israeli move “reminiscent of South Africa’s apartheid regime which also prepared blacklists in order to punish people and prevent the entry of those opposed to its racist policies.”

 

Jabareen said the ban was an “overt violation” of the constitutional rights of Israeli citizens and of the rights of Palestinians guaranteed under international law to exercise “rights of association for family unification, for employment and for cultural and political exchange.”

 

A European Union spokesperson told The Electronic Intifada that the bloc is “seeking clarifications from the Israeli authorities” about the blacklist.

 

“Any decision [or] action that could curtail freedom of expression and association or complicate the space in which civil society organizations operate should be avoided,” the spokesperson added.

 

There were already strong indications that Israel was compiling and implementing blacklists, and last March Israel passed a law formalizing the policy of barring entry to BDS supporters.

Demonizing pacifists

 

One of the banned organizations is the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), a Quaker organization which began its work in Palestine in the refugee camps of Gaza in 1949.

 

AFSC’s recent grassroots organizing helped bring to Congress a new bill that aims to stop Israel from using US aid for the military detention, abuse and torture of Palestinian children.

 

AFSC was founded during World War I to provide an opportunity for service by conscientious objectors.

 

During World War II, as the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum affirms, the pacifist organization “worked in French internment camps, hid Jewish children and assisted thousands of Jewish and non-Jewish refugees with their immigration and resettlement to the United States.”

 

AFSC shared the 1947 Nobel Peace Prize with its British counterpart for the work the Quaker organizations did during and after the two world wars.

 

During the civil rights movement, AFSC stood by Black families as they faced the violence of racists intent on preventing the desegration of schools in the American South.

 

Yet today, this group that helped rescue Jews from the Nazis is among others labeled by Israel as engaging in “incitement and lies” with the aim of “destroying” Israel.

 

As an organization decades older than Israel, AFSC made clear it is unfazed by the ban.

 

“Motivated by Quaker belief in the worth and dignity of all people, the American Friends Service Committee has supported and joined in nonviolent resistance for over 100 years,” Kerri Kennedy, AFSC’s associate general secretary for international programs, told The Electronic Intifada.

 

“We answered the call for divestment from apartheid South Africa and we have done the same with the call for boycott, divestment and sanctions from Palestinians who have faced decades of human rights violations,” Kennedy added. “We will continue to stand up for peace and justice in Israel, occupied Palestine and around the world.”

“Badge of honor”

 

Groups on the blacklist, including CODEPINK, Friends of Al-Aqsa, War on Want, Association France Palestine Solidarité, the UK’s Palestine Solidarity Campaign and the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign have affirmed their work will continue and suggested that the Israeli ban was a sign of the movement’s growing effectiveness.

 

Yousef Munayyer, director of the US Campaign for Palestinian Rights, said his group wore its inclusion on the list as a “badge of honor.”

“Wake-up call”

 

Rebecca Vilkomerson, director of Jewish Voice for Peace, said that as a result of the ban, members of her group “are now joining Palestinians as well as Muslims from around the world, people of color, and other activists who are often barred from entry.”

 

Hugh Lanning, chair of the the UK’s Palestine Solidarity Campaign, said the Israeli ban, which affects three British organizations, “should be a wake-up call for the UK government and all those who continue to describe Israel as a normal liberal democracy.”

 

Lanning, who was himself barred from entry by Israeli authorities last year, added: “Liberal democracies do not prevent entry to individuals whose only offense is to draw attention to human rights abuses and to call for nonviolent action to address them. Only states that wish to protect their ability to act unjustly behave in this way.”

 

Palestine’s BDS National Committee called the blacklist “another desperate, fanatic attempt by Israel’s far-right government to silence its critics and counter the impressive growth of the nonviolent BDS movement for Palestinian rights around the world.”

 

Last year, a secret report endorsed by the Israeli government and published by The Electronic Intifada admitted that despite a twenty-fold increase in spending to try to defeat BDS, Israel had failed to stem the movement’s “impressive growth” and “significant successes.”

 

This news originally appeared in Electronic Intifada website and can be accessed here

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