Israel refuses entry to member of UK Labour Party

Spedding claimed that he had invitations from civil society organizations and had planned to meet members of Knesset "regarding peace building in Northern Ireland."

January 14, 2019 18:36
3 minute read.
Ben Gurion Departures

Passengers stand near a check-in desk at Ben Gurion International airport. (photo credit: BAZ RATNER/REUTERS)


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Gary Spedding, a British left-wing activist and member of the UK Labour Party, was detained at Ben-Gurion Airport on Monday and denied entry to Israel.

Spedding was previously banned from entering the country in 2014 for five years by the Interior Ministry’s Population and Immigration Authority after reportedly organizing a violent protest at Queens University, Belfast, in which an Israeli representative was attacked.

After traveling to Israel again following the end of his five-year ban, Spedding tweeted that he was detained and interrogated for three hours before his entry into Israel was eventually denied. He boarded a flight back to the United Kingdom on Monday evening.

Spedding said his visit was “entirely legitimate and planned,” adding that he wrote to the Israel Embassy in the UK as well as to Ambassador to the UK Mark Regev before his trip.

He also claimed that he had invitations from civil society organizations and had planned to meet members of Knesset “regarding peace-building in Northern Ireland” and that he is not a member of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement.

“I wish to put on public record that I am not a member of the BDS movement and do not actively advocate for a boycott of Israel. I support the democratic right of others to boycott, but I do not participate myself,” Spedding said.

Spedding describes himself as a cross-party advocate and lobbyist on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the UK, Irish and European Parliaments and as an applied peace and conflict research practitioner.

In March 2017, Israel passed a law enabling the Interior Ministry to deny entry to those supporting the boycott of Israel.

“Whoever continues letting [boycott activists] into Israel exposes Israeli citizens to harm,” said Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan.

Since then, there have been a number of incidents in which activists were barred from the country because of their connections to organizations that are on the Strategic Affairs Ministry’s blacklist of Israel-boycotting organizations.

In addition, many activists were stopped and questioned for what they felt were unfairly long amounts of time, including journalist Peter Beinart, who calls to boycott settlements, and Simone Zimmerman, a leader of IfNotNow, which calls for US Jewish organizations to take Israel to task for its continued presence in the West Bank.

Most notable, however, was the case of 22-year-old Lara Alqasem, who was denied entry to Israel for over two weeks in October 2018 because of her former presidency of the University of Florida’s Students for Justice in Palestine group.

Alqasem was finally permitted to enter into Israel following a High Court ruling, and she is now pursuing her graduate studies at Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

Lahav Harkov contributed to this report.

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