Banned for Nonviolent Resistance: Israel’s Un-Democratic Move

Over the weekend, Israel announced that they had a new list of 20 organizations whose members are banned from entering the country. The organizations from several different countries who all have one thing in common: they support the use of boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) as a nonviolent way to resist the occupation and hold Israel accountable for its violations of international law.

We know something about being banned from Israel for nonviolent resistance. Even before this list was announced, several members of the 2017 Interfaith Network for Justice in Palestine delegation that PPF led with Jewish Voice for Peace, American Muslims for Palestine, and Interfaith Peace Builders were barred from boarding the flight in Washington, D.C. They, too, all had one thing in common: they are leaders who publicly support the use of BDS.

For a country that prides itself on claiming to be the only democracy in the Middle East, Israel should realize that banning people for political beliefs and nonviolent activism is un-democratic.

Banned Nonviolent Groups

Now Israel has made an official list of activists who they will not allow to enter the country (unless they are Jews who are moving to Israel and making aliyah). Both Jewish Voice for Peace and American Muslims for Palestine are on that list, along with 3 other organizations from the United States: American Friends Service Committee, CODEPINK, and the US Campaign for Palestinian Rights. All are organizations committed to nonviolence and to peace with justice in Palestine and Israel. Out of those commitments, they all endorse and employ the tactics of boycotts, divestment, and sanctions as nonviolent and effective ways to resist the violence of the occupation.

When our Executive Director Rev. Emily Brewer was detained and questioned in the airport in Tel Aviv before being allowed into the country, the young IDF soldier who was interrogating her said, “We are not afraid of BDS. We are not afraid of some activists.” Even the fact that he said that made it clear that Israel is afraid of BDS and the effects it has on changing the status quo of occupation. This ban that was announced on January 7 further emphasizes that Israel feels threatened by BDS because it’s working.

So Many Have Already Been Living Under A Travel Ban

We at PPF are saddened and angry that this ban may affect some of our partners’ ability to visit Palestine and Israel to act with and be in solidarity with people working to end the occupation of Palestine. While many people in the United States may feel outraged at the effect that this ban may have on their freedom of movement, this moment also calls us to remember that Palestinian refugees have been unable to return to their homes for generations, and Palestinian Americans (and Palestinians living in other countries) are often denied entry when they try to visit their homeland.

This is why the BDS movement is so important: one of the central calls in the 2005 Palestinian call for the use of BDS is to demand the right of return for refugees. The other demands are an end to the military occupation and a removal of the wall, and the recognition of the rights of Arab-Palestinian citizens living inside Israel. These demands are simple, just, and in accordance with international law. The use of BDS to achieve the justice demanded is, in the words of Omar Barghouti to our 2014 delegation, “hardly heroic.”

PPF is not on the list of organizations banned, and we will not be daunted by the threat of backlash for supporting Palestinian human rights through the nonviolent tactics of boycott, divestment, and sanctions. Instead, we will double down on our commitments.

If you’re ready to double down with us, here’s how: