Israel’s “Entry Law”: What It Is and What It Means

***UPDATE: The final language of the bill has been significantly broadened, and now applies to “Any person who is not a citizen of Israel or holds a certification for permanent residency in the state of Israel shall not be given a residing certification or permit of any kind, if he, or the organization or agency for the sake of which he acts (she-hu po’el avuram), has knowingly published a public call to boycott the State of Israel, as defined in the Law to Prevent Harming the State of Israel through Boycott of 2011, or if he has committed to take part in such a boycott, as stated.”*** 

***UPDATE: The Knesset passed the "Entry Bill" into law on March 6, 2017***

APN's statement condemning passage of the law is here.

What is the “Entry Law”?

The so-called “Entry Law” currently under consideration is an amendment to Israel’s 1952 “Entry Law,” which determines who is allowed to enter into Israel and under what conditions.

The amendment stipulates that any person who is not an Israeli citizen will be denied entry into Israel if:

“if the person, or the organization or agency for the sake of which he acts, has knowingly publicized a call to boycott the state of Israel, as defined in the 2011 Law to Prevent Harming the State of Israel through Boycott, or (if that person) has pledged to participate in such a boycott.”[while granting Israel’s Interior Minister the prerogative to issue exceptional entry permits to boycotters “for special reasons.”]

What would it do?

The key to understanding the “Entry Law” is the reference to the 2011 “Boycott Law.” This law (which has nothing in common U.S. anti-boycott legislation, as documented here and here) made it illegal to in any way call for boycotting of either Israel or West Bank settlements (see APN press release here). It did so by defining “the State of Israel” as,

“the State of Israel, one of its institutions or an area under its control.”

This last category, “an area under its control,” was the real focus of the 2011 law and is the focus of the current bill. This was clear from the declarations of the 2011 law’s sponsors, who were explicit about their intent (not to mention the fact that Israel passing a law preventing people in Israel from boycotting Israel would have been nonsensical).

The goal of the “Entry Law” is broader. It exploits the definition of “the State of Israel” in the 2011 Boycott Law to conflate Israel and settlements, demonize/delegitimize foreign nationals who publicly engage in or advocate boycotts of either, and ban them from entry to Israel.  

While the legislation will impact all foreigners – whether they are public supporters of BDS against Israel or advocates of settlement boycotts, the bill’s sponsors have again made it clear that the primary focus of this legislation is to push back against boycotts focused on West Bank settlements and the occupation. This will include many American Jews, APN included, who are deeply dedicated to the State of Israel and, who, consistent with their support for Israel as a democracy and reflecting progressive Jewish values, oppose settlements and the occupation. 

What are the implications of the bill becoming law?

The "Entry Bill" became law on March 6, 2017.

It is not yet clear how the bill will be implemented. An Israeli government inter-ministerial committee is reportedly now examining the way in which it will be applied.

Will the government prepare a “black list,” a database of foreign nationals who are suspected of supporting settlement boycotts, and turn them away at Ben Gurion Airport? Will such individuals be interrogated at the airport regarding their political beliefs and preferred protest practices?  Will there be an appeal process? Will relevant individuals have to apply to the Minister of Interior for an exceptional entry permit? These are the kinds of questions the committee will likely grapple with. 

 The potential repercussions of the bill are as straightforward as the bill’s language and intent. The bill is aimed at a basic civil liberty, the freedom of expression. Boycotting and calling for boycotts are a legitimate form of peaceful, political expression. Violating it will further erode Israeli democracy and harm its reputation among the family of nations as a free, democratic state.

Domestically, the bill will send a message to the Israeli public that legitimate political expression is verboten, thus further quashing dissent.