Israel lists 20 groups to be denied entry over boycott calls

18 groups that advocate boycotting Israel will now be denied entry

BDS, which stands for "boycott, divest and sanctions", aims to pressure Israel into complying with worldwide law vis-à-vis its policies toward the Palestinians. The blacklist announced Sunday, which follows from that measure, identifies groups that are waging "a false propaganda campaign" and "undermining Israel's legitimacy in the world", the Interior Ministry said.

Declaring a "switch from defense to offense", the Ministry of Strategic Affairs on Sunday published a list of 20 global pro-BDS organizations to be banned from the country for their calls to boycott Israel.

The blacklist names groups from the U.S., Europe, Chile and South Africa.

The legislation denies permits and residency visas to anyone who has publicly called for a boycott of the country.

A statement by Israel's Strategic Affairs Ministry said those who have carried out "significant, ongoing and consistent harm to Israel through advocating boycotts may be considered to have their entry barred".

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The grassroots level BDS movement is aimed at putting pressure over governments and corporations across the world to end their "relationship" with Israeli government and companies responsible for the brutal occupation and apartheid in Palestine. Between 2010-2013 then Strategic Affairs Ministry Director General Yossi Kuperwasser developed an action plan on how to counter BDS. "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".

Gary Spedding, a British and a member of the Alliance Party's youth wing, who was refused entry by Israel in 2014 noted that the list was "merely an excuse to legally justify barring activists and human rights observers" from reporting the ground realities. "But I am also heartened by this indicator of the BDS movement's growing strength, and hope that it will bring the day closer when just as I go to visit my friends and family in Israel, so will Palestinian friends and colleagues be able to return home", Vilkomerson said in the statement.

Among the groups that are banned include Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), American Muslims for Palestine (AMP), Code Pink and Friends of al-Aqsa (FOA).

According to reports previous year, Hugh Lanning of PSC became the first British citizen to be refused entry to Israel under the law.

"Israel's decision to specifically ban JVP is disconcerting but not surprising, given the further erosion of democratic norms and rising anxiety about the power of BDS as a tool to demand freedom", Jewish Voice for Peace wrote on Facebook in response to the decision. "Israel sees this as a deterrent, but I think that people will be even more dedicated to the cause".

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