Activists from the BDS movement against Israel [File].
(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
For the first time, Israel denied entrance to a NGO official allegedly affiliated with the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions Movement, citing “anti-Israel activity” as its reasoning.
Dr. Isabel Apawo Phiri, a citizen of Malawi, was interrogated upon her arrival at Ben-Gurion Airport on Monday.
Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan and Interior Minister Arye Deri decided against issuing a tourist visa to Phiri, who was then deported.
According to the Interior Ministry, Phiri, who is assistant general secretary of the World Council of Churches (WCC), was denied entry due to the organization’s support of the EAPPI plan – Ecumenical Accompaniment Program in Palestine and Israel.
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The WCC is an umbrella organization of over 340 churches, ecumenical bodies and specialized ministries from over 110 countries in Africa, Asia, Europe, North America and Latin America.
“Since 2002, the World Council of Churches has promoted the EAPPI program, whose activists come to Israel for a fixed period and promote anti-Israel activity,” the Interior Ministry said.
Speaking to The Jerusalem Post, WCC general secretary Rev. Dr. Olav Fykse Tveit denied Israeli accusations of BDS support, saying they are false. “It is a surprise that the Israeli authorities want to attack a person in this way.
The argument is built on false conditions, on something that is not true,” he said.
Tveit said that neither the council nor the EAPPI program sponsored by the council supports BDS, and that the council supports a two-state solution. Individual churches under the group’s umbrella may support BDS, he added.
Regarding the EAPPI, which the Interior Ministry specifically cited as anti-Israel activity, Tveit said that the purpose is to “organize volunteers to observe what is going on so the world can know what it is like to live under occupation on a daily basis.”
The program does not have a BDS agenda, he said, but participants are not beholden to council policy after the trip is over. Over 1,500 EAPPI volunteers have come to Israel.
Pro-BDS activists have been denied entry in the past, but this is the first time a supporter of the anti-Israel movement has been explicitly denied entry due to BDS affiliation.
“This is actually the first time the State of Israel refuses the entry of a tourist due to a clear background of anti-Israel activity and the promotion of economic, cultural and academic boycotts against Israel,” the Interior Ministry said.
“Allowing entry to activists such as Phiri would effectively reinforce the prohibited activities she and her friends are promoting,” Deri said. “I will use all the authority at my disposal to prevent harm to Israel.”
Also on Tuesday, Channel 2 reported that Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan is seeking to amend a 2011 anti-boycott law with new regulations that would impose economic sanctions on companies and corporations calling for a boycott against Israel. According the report, Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon agreed to support the amendments, which could also affect companies whose employees privately express or act in favor of boycotting Israel.