MK turns to High Court after Knesset denies him trip with BDS organization

Yousef Jabareen: "The new rule “is an extreme violation of freedom of expression and political activity for MKs."

March 14, 2018 13:44
2 minute read.
Yousef Jabareen

Yousef Jabareen shouts during a protest. (photo credit: COURTESY HADASH)


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Joint List MK Yousef Jabareen plans to petition the High Court of Justice, he said Wednesday, after the Knesset Ethics Committee rejected his request to embark on a speaking tour sponsored by an American pro-BDS organization.

Jabareen is the first MK whose travels were rejected under a new Knesset ethics rule instated earlier this year that allows the committee to reject an MK who wants to travel at the expense of groups calling to boycott Israel.

“The decision is a violation of my freedom of political activity as an elected official,” Jabareen said. “Without funding by the group that invites me, I cannot travel because of the great costs of a speaking tour. This activity is a significant part of my job as an opposition MK and it is unacceptable to not allow me to take part.”

Jewish Voice for Peace, a far-left organization that advocates for a boycott of Israel, asked Jabareen to embark on a weeklong, all-expenses-paid speaking tour in April to lecture on “the deterioration of democracy in Israel, including the latest discriminatory laws.” Jabareen has spoken on this topic at the European Parliament in recent months.

The organization planned to have Jabareen speak on college campuses and think tanks on the east coast, and possibly give a briefing on Capitol Hill.

Jabareen reported the trip to the Ethics Committee, as all MKs must do when their travel is paid for by someone else.
On Tuesday, the Ethics Committee cited the new guideline in a letter to Jabareen.

“As you know, the organization that seeks to invite you and funds your travels are on the list prepared by the Strategic Affairs Ministry of central boycott organizations that work consistently and continually against the State of Israel, while pressuring institutions and states to boycott Israel,” the letter reads.

At the Ethics Committee’s request, Strategic Affairs Minister Gilad Erdan gave the panel his opinion. He said that Jewish Voice for Peace “is considered one of the leading boycott organizations on the US,” and pointed to its annual conference as a place where it holds discussions of how to promote boycotts and fight anti-boycott legislation, and its campaign against Birthright Israel.

“In addition, the organization hosted the terrorist Rasmsea Odeh, who was convicted of murdering two Israeli citizens in the 1960s as one of its central speakers,” Erdan added. “[Jewish Voice for Peace] cooperates with several known delegitimization organizations... These activities include calls to reduce the US government’s support for Israel.”

In light of this, the Ethics Committee wrote that it weighted the matter and decided not to allow Jabareen to travel if he is sponsored by Jewish Voice for Peace.

Jabareen said he would petition the High Court against the denial of his trip and against the new ethics rule in general.

The rule “is an extreme violation of freedom of expression and political activity for MKs, and therefore, is totally illegal,” he said.

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