After months of denying its existence, Israel’s Strategic Affairs Ministry on 7 January announced a blacklist of 20 organisations whose members and supporters would be barred from entering the Zionist state from 1 March due to their endorsing the Palestinian boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign.
Among the organisations blacklisted are the Palestinian BDS National Committee, War Against Want, the United States Campaign for Palestinian Rights, Jewish Voice for Peace and the American Friends Service Committee, a Quaker group that won the 1947 Nobel Peace prize for helping Jews escape the Holocaust.
Also on the list are the UK Palestine Solidarity Campaign, whose patron and former chair is British Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, and the South African BDS campaign, which is supported by South Africa’s governing party, the African National Congress (ANC).
Inspired by South Africa’s struggle against apartheid, the campaign is conducted within the framework of international solidarity and resistance to injustice. It calls for non-violent punitive measures to be maintained until Israel meets its obligation to recognise the Palestinian people’s right to self-determination and complies with international law.
Since its initiation in 2005, the campaign has gone from strength to strength internationally. Trade unions, faith groups, student groups and cultural groups have announced support for it.
Israel’s publication of the blacklist came two weeks after the 24 December announcement by award-winning New Zealand singer/songwriter Lorde that she would cancel her 2018 Tel Aviv concert. Lorde’s decision came after Palestinian and Jewish activists urged her to respect the BDS campaign and support Palestinian human rights.
Blacklisted organisations have vowed to continue their support for BDS. Yousef Munayyer, executive director of the US Campaign for Palestinian Rights, explained that his organisation would “wear this designation as a badge of honour”.
In a statement issued on 7 January, he said the blacklist simply confirmed the effectiveness of the BDS campaign, while exposing Israel’s fraudulent claim to be a democratic state. The blacklist is not new, he said, but part of “a policy that Israel had been enacting for decades” and that “by publishing this list, Israel is just openly admitting to what it has been doing for years”.
Hassan Jabareen, the general director of Adalah – the Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel – condemned the blacklist, saying it was “an overt violation of the constitutional rights of Israeli citizens and the rights guaranteed to Palestinian residents of the OPT [occupied Palestinian territories] under international humanitarian and human rights law”.
In a statement after the blacklist was released, he said: “This move is 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”.
The ANC likewise condemned Israel’s actions, saying it would only strengthen its resolve to support the Palestinian people:
“In the ANC-led South Africa, many of our ministers and other senior government officials, including members of parliament, premiers, mayors and others, are vocal public supporters of Palestine, and many have addressed BDS events.”
The statement explained that the ANC’s “resolutions and policies mandate our deployees in government to carry Palestine solidarity within their government portfolios”.
In response to the Trump administration’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in contravention of international law, the Central Council of the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) officially announced that it too would support the BDS campaign.
Previously, the PLO had given only vague unofficial support, despite its being supported overwhelmingly by all sections of Palestinian society. In adopting the campaign, the PLO for the first time called for international sanctions on Israel, “to put an end to its flagrant violations of international law, its continued aggression against the Palestinian people, and to the apartheid regime [Israel has] imposed on them”.