An amendment to a law designed to prevent entry to Israel by those who publically call for boycotts against Israel passed its second and third readings in Knesset plenum on Monday, potentially delivering a blow to the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions Movement (BDS).
The bill passed with 46 MKs voting in favor of it and 28 against after drawn-out deliberations and a stubborn fight was put up by the opposition and the bill’s detractors.
The amendment to the state entry law dictates that no visa or residency permit of any kind will be granted to a person who is not a citizen or permanent resident in Israel, if he, or the organization or body for which he works, knowingly and publicly calls to boycott Israel or who participated in a boycott against Israel.
Nonetheless, the Minister of the Interior will keep the authority to grant such permits under special circumstances.
"In the last few years the calls to boycott Israel have been growing," the bill proposal reads. "It appears that this is a new front in the war against Israel for which the state was so far reluctant to prepare. This amendment aims to prevent people or representatives of companies, associations or organizations who publically call to boycott Israel from actively working within state territories to promote their agenda."
The opposition viciously opposed the general initiative. MK Tamar Zandberg (Meretz) slammed the bill as one “which opposes freedom of expression, serves as political censorship and is designed to silence dissent.”
Zandberg claimed that the amendment was disguised as being against people who call to boycott Israel but fails to differentiate between Israel and the settlements, thereby serving the BDS agenda.
"The bill's purpose is to prevent entry from supporters of peace and human rights that object the occupation by portraying them as supporters of the boycott,” she contended.
“Not even a hundred laws like this will reduce the criticism against Israeli occupation and settlements and calls to ban products from the settlements, but will have the opposite effect by proving that Israel does actually silence opposition."
MK Dov Khenin (Joint List) also chimed in, asking "who today doesn’t oppose the settlements? Take a look at the UN, at the European Union, at what's happening in the international community. You want to ban all people from these organization from entering Israel? The whole world thinks that the settlements are illegal.”
"You're basically saying that 'if the world objects to Israel's policies then we will ban the world.' A nation that bans the world is a nation that isolates itself. You're basically promoting an initiative which will strengthen the boycotts against Israel," he concluded.
MK Bezalel Smotrich (Jewish Home), who is one of the MK's who proposed the bill, defended it during the deliberations, saying "what pains me is how, while disputing the bill, you lose a bit of yourself as a people and a state. I hear from the left revulsion at, and alienation from, the very core of our ancestral home."
"What is this amendment about, all told?" Smotrich continued. "The most natural thing for a healthy person who loves his friends and hates his enemies, not to turn the other cheek. A nation with common sense which does not want to aid those who harm it, and does not allow them to use our infrastructures against us."
MK Roy Folkman (Kulanu), another one of the MK's who proposed the bill, added that "we can feel national pride and also believe in human rights. We can defend Israel's name and honor, and there's no shame in it."
In the plenum, the Knesset also passed a bill in its second and third reading, which will enable the courts to prevent a citizen's entry to Israel and annul his citizenship without his presence is he is suspected of terrorism.