Britain’s Jewish community has delivered rare and unanimous criticism of Israeli policy, in response to a new law banning entry to visitors from organisations that support anti-Israel boycotts.
The Board of Deputies, Jewish Leadership Council, New Israel Fund, Union of Jewish Students (UJS), Jewish Labour Movement and Trade Union Friends of Israel were among those branding the move “anti-democratic”, “indiscriminate” and “deeply problematic”.
The law not only bans individuals who support a boycott of Israel or settlements, it also applies to leaders and representatives of organisations that support settlement boycotts – even if that person opposes boycotts.
Jewish student leaders said this would have profound implications for Jewish students who join the National Union of Students (NUS), or for non-Jewish student union leaders who personally oppose boycotts but whose own unions voted for it.
“This law has the potential to have damaging consequences for Jewish and non-Jewish students alike,” said a UJS spokesman. “It is deeply problematic that there will be Jewish students, many of whom may visit Israel regularly, who could be turned away because of their association with NUS or the handful of students’ unions which support the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign.”
He added: “The clear polarisation that exists in the student movement on the issue of Israel-Palestine highlights the importance of providing student leaders with the opportunity to visit Israel and Palestine and meet those who are affected by the ongoing conflict, as we have done for a number of years. This law has the potential to hinder that work and further entrench the divisions we see on campus.”
A Board of Deputies spokesperson agreed, saying: “We oppose boycotts tirelessly, and understand Israel’s desire to come down hard on those extremists who target Israel unfairly. But due to the indiscriminate nature of this legislation, we doubt whether it will be helpful in the fight against the haters.”
Simon Johnson, chief executive of the Jewish Leadership Council, had a more fundamental problem with Israel’s new law, which bans entry on political grounds.
He said: “This law undermines the cherished value of free speech, which is so essential in a democracy. We need to seek urgent clarification from the embassy because the risk is that enforcement of this law will provide ammunition to our enemies and make the battle against BDS in the UK so much more difficult.”
Israeli politicians voted by 46-28 to ban foreigners who support either a wholesale boycott of Israel or just of Jewish settlements in the West Bank, with critics claiming they were “trying to erase the Green Line”.Thursday, March 09, 2017