Citing BDS, Israel bars entry to Amnesty staffer

Israel has retaliated against Amnesty International over its call for a global ban on settlement goods by denying entry to one of its staffers.

The human rights group said that Raed Jarrar, Amnesty USA advocacy director for the Middle East, was stopped at the Allenby Bridge crossing on Monday as he tried to enter the occupied West Bank from Jordan for a family visit following the recent death of his father.

“He was interrogated by Israeli officials about the reasons for his visit, his family in the [occupied Palestinian territories], his work with Amnesty International and in particular the organization’s work denouncing Israeli settlements in the West Bank, before being denied entry and returned back to Jordan,” the group said on Tuesday.

In June, Amnesty called on governments around the world to “ban Israeli settlement products to help end half a century of violations against Palestinians.”

Israel’s interior ministry confirmed to media that Jarrar had been barred due to “his [boycott, divestment and sanctions] activities.”

“The fact that Raed Jarrar was barred from entry after being interrogated about his work with Amnesty International appears to suggest that this move was taken in retaliation for the organization’s work on human rights violations” in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip, said Philip Luther, Amnesty’s Middle East and North Africa research and advocacy director.

“This appears to be another ominous signal of the Israeli authorities’ resolve to silence human rights organizations and activists who are critical of the Israeli government.”

Singled out

The group noted that Israeli occupation officers gave Jarrar a document confirming that he was denied entry for “public security” or “public order” considerations and the “prevention of illegal immigration.”

Israeli authorities cited similar reasons last year when they denied entry to Isabel Apawo Phiri, the associate general secretary of the World Council of Churches.

But at that time Israeli officials also told media that Phiri had really been denied entry on the grounds she supported the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement for Palestinian rights.

Phiri, a national of Malawi, was the only African traveling with her delegation, and the only person singled out and denied entry.

Similarly, Jarrar, who is of Palestinian descent, was traveling with an Amnesty colleague, Alli McCracken, who was not denied entry.

“Prior to joining Amnesty International, Raed Jarrar had visited Israel and the [occupied Palestinian territories] four times and had never been denied entry,” Amnesty said. “Alli McCracken had been to the West Bank six times before and has taken part in solidarity events such as the annual olive harvest.”

Blacklists

In September, Israel threatened to punish Amnesty under a 2011 law permitting financial penalties against organizations that support boycotting Israel, including its settlements which are all illegal under international law.

As part of its effort to suppress international support for Palestinian rights, Israel passed a law in March explicitly barring entry or residency to non-Israelis who advocate boycott, including of settlements.

Israel has also been compiling blacklists of BDS supporters, some of whom have already been denied entry.

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Ali Abunimah

Ali Abunimah's picture

Co-founder of The Electronic Intifada and author of The Battle for Justice in Palestine, now out from Haymarket Books.

Also wrote One Country: A Bold-Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse. Opinions are mine alone.