As of Sunday, the national branch of Students for Justice in Palestine — along with 19 other organizations that support the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement — has been banned from entering Israel.
Both the country’s Strategic Affairs and Interior Ministries published a list of 20 organizations it deemed “consistently and openly” working to “delegitimize Israel” and therefore will be blacklisted from entering its borders.
Students for Justice in Palestine is an anti-Zionist, Palestinian college student group that has accused Israel of war crimes, ethnic cleansing, and genocide. SJP hosts Palestine Awareness Week events on campuses in the United States, Canada, and New Zealand.
In a statement, the Strategic Affairs Ministry said the listed organizations are “pressuring entities, institutes, and countries to boycott Israel. The activities of the organizations are carried out by way of a false propaganda campaign, aimed at undermining Israel’s legitimacy in the world.”
“We have moved from defense to attack,” Israel’s Strategic Affairs Minister Gilad Erdan announced in the statement. “Boycott organizations need to know that Israel will act against them and will not allow [them] to enter its territory in order to harm its citizens.”
Tammi Rossman-Benjamin, Director of the AMCHA Initiative which monitors anti-Israel activity on college campuses, told Red Alert Politics that SJP’s mission advocating BDS cannot be ignored.
“Many of, if not, most [SJP chapters] have a promotion of BDS as one of their foundational missions,” Ross-Benjamin said. “The ideology out of which that grows is an ideology that says you should shut down anything that has to do with Zionism whether it is ‘the Zionist state’ or ‘Zionists who support that state.’”
Other U.S.-based groups on the list include Jewish Voice for Peace, which also has chartered groups on college campuses.
“The public naming of JVP on this list is significant,” JVP executive director Rebecca Vilkomerson wrote in the Israeli publication, Haaretz. “Clearly, the Israeli government is very aware that increasing numbers of Jews and all people worldwide support the BDS movement, and are seeking to intimidate and coerce us into silence.”
However, Brooke Goldstein, the director of the nonprofit legal think tank The Lawfare Project, disagrees with Vilkomerson’s sentiment.
“It shouldn’t be problematic for these groups,” Goldstein told Red Alert Politics. “Since they are boycotting Israel, doesn’t that entail them not visiting the state?”
She continued, “It’s the sovereign right of any state to control its borders. Israel has no obligation under international law to allow foreigners into the state, especially if they pose an economic or other threat.”
“It’s been reported that some of the banned groups also have connections to terrorist groups, so that would be adequate grounds,” she added. “However, the purpose of the so-called BDS movement isn’t necessary to harm Israel economically, it’s to demonize the Jewish state and by extension, to target Jews. This type of commercial discrimination based on national origin is illegal in many countries including the U.S.”
Goldstein concluded, “So, if an entity is operating in violation of state law, it also provides adequate grounds to deny them entry into the country.”
She also mentioned the United Nations’ effort to compile a list of companies which do business in Israel in order to encourage a boycott of the Jewish State.
The jury is still out on whether student leaders of these groups will be banned from travel or if the ban only applies to national staff.
"Our understanding is that this policy will only affect the leaders of organizations that promote discriminatory boycotts against Israel, rather than every individual who expresses an opinion," Roz Rothstein, co-founder and CEO of the Israel advocacy group StandWithUs, told Red Alert in an emailed statement. "Given that the boycott campaign seeks to eliminate Israel and deny Jewish rights to self-determination in their ancestral homeland, it is no surprise that many Israelis prefer not to welcome these leaders into their country."
J Street, a pro-Israel advocacy group that opposes the Global BDS Movement and has an active, nationwide campus program, has called Israel’s ban a “significant blow to the foundations of Israeli democracy.”
The American Israel Public Affairs Committee did not respond to a request for comment.
Jackson Richman (@jacksonrichman) is an editor and daily columnist at The National Discourse, an upstart publication promoting rational and constructive dialogue by publishing articles from diverse viewpoints.