Israel bans entry for 20 groups over BDS support

Bethlehem, occupied West Bank – Israel has published a list of 20 international groups whose members will be barred from entering the country due to their support for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.

The so-called blacklist, which was released on Sunday by Israel’s strategic affairs ministry, includes organisations based in a number of European countries, as well as the United States, Chile and South Africa.

The BDS movement is a Palestinian-led nonviolent campaign launched more than a decade ago seeking to end Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories. It demands equal rights for Palestinians by putting pressure on the Israeli government via economic and cultural boycotts.

Israel has long tried to to squash the movement, and Sunday’s move is seen as a continuation of a March 2017 decision to amend its entry law, permitting Israeli authorities to bar entrance to activists who promote the boycott of Israel or its illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank.

Gilad Erdan, Israel’s strategic affairs minister, called the newly-published BDS registry “another step in our work to thwart anti-Israel boycott organisations”.

According to Israel’s ministry of strategic affairs, the banned groups are:

Europe:

AFPS (The Association France Palestine Solidarite)

BDS France

BDS Italy

ECCP (The European Coordination of Committees and Associations for Palestine)

FOA (Friends of Al Aqsa)

IPSC (Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign)

Norge Palestinakomitee (The Palestine Committee of Norway)

Palestinagrupperna i Sverige (PGS- Palestine Solidarity Association in Sweden)

PSC (Palestine Solidarity Campaign)

War on Want

BDS Kampagne

United States:

AFSC (American Friends Service Committee)

AMP (American Muslims for Palestine)

Code Pink

JVP (Jewish Voice for Peace)

NSJP (National Students for Justice in Palestine)

USCPR (US Campaign for Palestinian Rights)

BNC (BDS National Committee) 

Latin America:

BDS Chile 

Africa:

BDS South Africa

“The State of Israel will actively prevent such groups from spreading their falsehoods and odious methods from within the country,” he said in a statement on Sunday.

‘A tactic to silence people’

Israel’s move elicited a variety of responses from the targeted groups, with some expressing disappointment and condemnation, and others hailing it as a “clear victory” for the BDS movement.

Shamiul Joarder, head of public affairs at Friends of Al Aqsa (FOA), one of the banned groups, said the list was evidence that “BDS is working”.

“Israel sees this as a deterrent, but I think that people will be even more dedicated to the cause,” he told Al Jazeera, adding that such policies could end up having positive effects for the movement.

Calling the move “a tactic to silence people”, Joarder said the list was meant to “intimidate our supporters and members” and to “scare people from being active and resisting the occupation”.

Also included in the list is the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), a group that won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1947 partly for its work rescuing and providing relief to Jews during the Holocaust.

Responding to the ban, the AFSC said in a statement that it had been supporting nonviolent resistance for more than 100 years -and had no plans of stopping now.

“We answered the call for divestment from apartheid South Africa and we have done the same with the call for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions from Palestinians who have faced decades of human rights violations,” said Kerri Kennedy, AFSC’s associate general-secretary for international programmes.

“We will continue to stand up for peace and justice in Israel, occupied Palestine, and around the world.”

‘We will not be bullied’

A spokesperson for Israel’s ministry of strategic affairs told Al Jazeera that the list did not represent a “blanket ban” on all members of the organisations, but the entry of their members would be considered on a “case by case basis”.

Those who would be banned, the spokesperson said, were “the main activists who have demonstrated ongoing, consistent and significant action to promote and advance the boycott of Israel”.

The spokesperson added that an inter-ministerial committee was “working out the criteria” that would necessitate barring an activist’s entry into Israel.

But activists said the new policy represented a “broader crackdown” on nonviolent Palestinian rights movements aimed at holding Israel accountable to international law.

Rebecca Vilkomerson, executive director of Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), which was also included in the list, said Israel’s move was “disconcerting but not surprising”.

“We will not be bullied by these attempts to punish us for a principled political stance that increasing numbers of Jews and non-jews support worldwide,” she said in a statement, while noting Israel’s “erosion of democratic norms” and its “rising anxiety about the power of BDS as a tool to demand freedom”.

Ahmad Tibi, a member of the Arab Joint List, a coalition of parties representing Palestinian citizens of Israel in the Knesset, said it was ironic that Israel – a self-proclaimed “Jewish state” – is permitting figures such as Austrian far-right leader Hans-Christian Strache to visit the country while banning the members of JVP.

“You cannot ban groups who are against settlements, occupation and apartheid and still call yourself a democracy,” Tibi told Al Jazeera.

As for Vilkomerson, who has family in Israel, the ban would be a “personal hardship”.

She was quick to add, however, that she was “heartened” by the fact that it signaled “the BDS movement’s growing strength”.

“[I] 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,” she said.

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Palestinians condemn Trump aid halt threat, mixed reaction in Israel

Trump drew praise from a cabinet minister in Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing government but a warning from a former Israeli peace negotiator of the dangers in cutting off financial assistance to the Palestinians.

On Twitter on Tuesday, Trump said that Washington gives Palestinians “HUNDRED OF MILLIONS OF DOLLARS a year and get no appreciation or respect. They don’t even want to negotiate a long overdue peace treaty with Israel … with the Palestinians no longer willing to talk peace, why should we make any of these massive future payments to them?”

Hanan Ashrawi, a member of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s executive committee, said in response: “We will not be blackmailed.”

Palestinian anger at Trump is already high over his Dec. 6 recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, a declaration that also generated outrage across the Arab world and concern among Washington’s Western allies.

Commenting on Trump’s tweets, Nabil Abu Rdainah, a spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, said: “Jerusalem is not for sale, neither for gold nor for silver.”

Abu Rdainah said the Palestinians were not opposed to returning to peace talks that collapsed in 2014, but only on the basis of establishing a state of their own along the lines that existed before Israel captured the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip in the 1967 war.

“If the United States is keen about peace and about its interests it must abide by that,” he said.

Israel, which withdrew troops and settlers from the Gaza Strip in 2005, has called the pre-1967 war West Bank boundaries indefensible and has pledged to hold on to all of Jerusalem forever.

A report prepared for the US Congress in December 2016 by the US Congressional Research Service said annual U.S. economic support to the West Bank and Gaza Strip has averaged around $400 million since fiscal 2008.

Much of the money has gone toward US Agency for International Development-administered project assistance and the rest toward budget support for the Palestinian Authority (PA), which administers limited self-rule in the Palestinian territories under interim peace agreements.

Israeli Culture Minister Miri Regev, a member of Netanyahu’s Likud party, welcomed Trump’s aid comments, saying on Army Radio: “I am very satisfied … (Trump) is saying the time has come to stop saying flattering words (to the Palestinians).”

But Tzipi Livni, an Israeli opposition politician and a former peace negotiator, said “a responsible and serious (Israeli) government” should quietly tell Trump that it would be in Israel’s interest to prevent a “humanitarian crisis in Gaza” and to continue to fund Palestinian security forces cooperating with Israel.

Earlier on Tuesday, Trump’s UN ambassador disclosed plans to stop funding a United Nations agency that provides humanitarian aid to Palestinian refugees.

“The president has basically said he doesn’t want to give any additional funding, or stop funding, until the Palestinians agree to come back to the negotiation table,” Ambassador Nikki Haley told reporters when asked about future U.S. funding for the U.N. Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA)for Palestinian refugees.

In an emailed statement, UNRWA spokesman Chris Gunness said “UNRWA has not been informed by the United States administration of any changes in US funding to the Agency”.

The United States is the largest donor to the agency, with a pledge of nearly $370 million as of 2016, according to UNRWA’s website.

According to UNRWA’s website, there are 5.9 million UNRWA refugees and other registered persons eligible for its services, which include education and health care, in the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria.

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Hasina foresees further progress, development in 2018

“This is the English New Year,” Hasina said at the inauguration of the 23rd Dhaka International Trade Fair on Monday.

“Let me say to everyone, Happy New Year! It is my hope that the New Year will bring progress and development.”

Hasina’s cabinet colleagues, members of parliament, top government officials, leading exporters and business leaders and local and foreign representatives attended the event at the Bangabandhu International Conference Centre.

A documentary film on Bangladesh’s development was shown at the start of the event.

Commerce Minister Tofail Ahmed, Parliamentary Standing Committee on the Ministry of Commerce Chairman Tajul Islam Choudhury and Commerce Secretary Subhasish Basu and Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry President Md Shafiul Alam also delivered speeches.

Export Promotion Bureau Vice Chairman Bijoy Bhattacharjee gave the introductory speech.

The Dhaka International Trade Fair is to run from Jan 1 to Jan 31 from 10am to 10pm. The entry fee is fixed at Tk 30 for adults and Tk 20 for minors.

This year’s fair has a total of 589 pavilions and stalls, with 112 large pavilions and 77 mini-pavilions.

Forty-three companies from Thailand, Iran, Turkey, Sri Lanka, the Maldives, Nepal, China, Malaysia, Vietnam, the US, the UK, India, Pakistan, Hong Kong, Singapore, Mauritius and South Korea will take part.

The trade fair is to be held at a permanent location at Purbachal New Town from 2020.  

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