‘This law could boost support for boycotts’
now fear they may experience difficulties when trying to enter the country. Emeritus Rabbi David Goldberg, of the Liberal Jewish Synagogue, St John’s Wood, who has always been critical of Israel’s settlements policy, said he wondered “if it will affect me personally when I go to Israel in May. This looks like the kind of legislation that Donald Trump might think up”.
The law, which passed in its third and final reading 46-28, was opposed not only by the left-wing Meretz and Joint List parties but by the centre-left Zionist Union, even though some of the party’s MKs had initially supported the measure on its first reading, and many of them abstained or were absent on Monday.
Roy Folkman, an MK of centre-right Kulanu, who was one of the sponsors of the bill, said after the vote it was not an attempt to suppress debate or human rights and that “you can believe in human rights and also defend Israel’s good name”.
Rabbi Charley Baginsky, Liberal Judaism’s director of strategy and partnerships, said: “The vagueness of the law is worrying as it makes it subject to abuse, and also means we are already seeing people asking questions about their ability to travel to Israel if they have ever publicly criticised the settlements.
Tony Klug, a special adviser on the Middle East to the Oxford Research Group, said: “I know people who go to Israel fairly often to see family who are strongly against the occupation who may find that when they arrive at the border they are debarred, which is absolutely shocking.”
According to Hannah Weisfeld, director of the pro-peace advocacy group, Yachad, the Israeli government was shooting itself in the foot. “Regardless of the rights and wrongs of the BDS movement, legislating against people’s right to use boycott as a form of protest is problematic. There are very mixed opinions among the Jewish community around the settlements in particular.
“I worry this could open a diplomatic crisis between Israel and the wider Jewish community.”
Another law passed on Monday with the support of the coalition will prevent the return of Israeli citizens suspected of taking part in terror activities abroad.
Interior Minister Arye Deri said the law would “close a loophole through which Israeli citizens who have left the country to fight with the enemy, particularly Daesh, can return to Israel as if nothing has happened”.
Under the new law, the government can hold hearings on revoking the citizenship of these terror suspects and deny them the right to return to Israel to attend these hearings.
Opposition MKs who voted against the law argued it was unnecessary as terror suspects can be arrested upon return and be allowed to attend their hearings while in custody.