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Israel denies head of Palestinian Federation of Chile entry into West Bank

April 10, 2017 8:15 P.M. (Updated: April 11, 2017 10:41 A.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- Israeli authorities reportedly prevented the head of the Palestinian Federation of Chile, Anwar Makhlouf, who holds Chilean citizenship, from entering the country through the King Hussein (Allenby) Bridge border crossing between Jordan and the occupied West Bank on Monday.

Hebrew-language news sites reported that the Israeli Minister of Media and Strategic Affairs Gideon Saar made a statement in response to the denial of entry to Makhlouf -- who is well known for his activism in the Boycott Divestment Sanctions (BDS) movement -- saying that “the days when BDS activists used to work here freely have long gone and we will not allow enemies of the state in.”

Neither a spokesperson from the Israeli Airports Authority or the Israeli Security Agency were immediately available for comment.

Last month, chairman of the London-based Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) Hugh Lanning was denied entry into Israel and deported back to the UK, just one week after Israel passed the controversial “BDS ban” law.

According to the Jerusalem Post, Israel denied entry the British activist on the grounds that “the organization Mr. Lanning heads is one of the leading anti-Israel delegitimization and BDS organizations in Britain, and one of the largest in Europe,” Israel’s Interior Ministry’s immigration authority and the Ministry of Public Security and Strategic Affairs said in a joint statement.

Right-wing Israeli lawmaker and Minister of Public Security Gilad Erdan said at the time that “whoever acts against Israel should understand that the rules of the game have changed. No sane country would allow entry to key boycott activists working to harm the country’s core interests and lead to its isolation.”

The BDS movement was founded in July 2005 by a swath of Palestinian civil society as a peaceful movement to restore Palestinian rights in accordance with international law through strategies of boycotting Israeli products and cultural institutions, divesting from companies complicit in violations against Palestinians, and implementing state sanctions against the Israeli government.

BDS has gained momentum over the years, with activists targeting companies that act in compliance with Israel’s illegal occupation of East Jerusalem and the West Bank.

Israel’s ban applies to foreigners who call for a boycott of Israeli institutions and illegal Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territory.

Israeli humans rights organization previously slammed the ban, saying that while the law was “not such a novelty” due to Israel’s pre-existing crackdown on foreign BDS activists, it nonetheless sent "a strong message.”

B’Tselem Executive Director Hagai El-Ad highlighted in March that “Israel controls not only who enters Israel, but also who enters Palestine,” hence affecting pro-Palestinian activists’ access to the occupied territory.

PSC director Ben Jamal echoed B’Tselem’s criticisms, saying that “by introducing this law, Israel is violating fundamental freedoms essential to a democracy -- the right to free speech, to criticize government policies and human rights violations, the right to advocate nonviolent actions to address human rights abuses, the right of free movement and travel.”

The Israeli government drew similar criticisms in February when Israeli authorities denied a work permit application for the Israel and Palestine director of international NGO Human Rights Watch on the basis that it was “not a real human rights group.”

In a letter denying a work permit for Omar Shakir dated Feb. 20, Israel’s Interior Ministry cited an opinion received from the Foreign Ministry that Human Rights Watch’s “public activities and reports have engaged in politics in the service of Palestinian propaganda, while falsely raising the banner of ‘human rights.’”

Deputy Executive Director of Program at Human Rights Watch Iain Levine reacted to the move, saying that “this decision and the spurious rationale should worry anyone concerned about Israel’s commitment to basic democratic values."

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