As of Jan. 7, 20 organizations that support the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement are banned from entering the country they love to demonize. However, such a move sets a dangerous precedent, especially in terms of freedom of expression.
In a statement, the Israeli Ministry of Strategic Affairs described the organizations on the list they released as operating “consistently, continuous and persistently against Israel, by way of pressuring entities, institutes, and countries to boycott Israel. The activities of the organizations are carried out by way of a false propaganda campaign, aimed at undermining Israel’s legitimacy in the world.”
“We have moved from defense to attack,” Israel’s Minister of Strategic Affairs Gilad Erdan announced in the statement. “Boycott organizations need to know that Israel will act against them and will not allow [them] to enter its territory in order to harm its citizens.”
While it is one thing to criticize and another to demonize, lines between criticism and demonization can be blurred by bureaucratic moves like this one by Israel’s government. Israel has every right to decide who to admit into the country; but while BDS seeks to undermine the legitimacy of the only true democracy in the Middle East, it is a non-violent movement. By banning groups that support BDS, radicals may conclude that violence is the only way to accomplish their mission. The ban is just fodder for the BDS crowd and anti-Israel choir in their continued efforts to paint the only truly liberal state in the Middle East as anything but.
Additionally, it is asinine and immoral that Israel banned BDS groups from entering the country but does not deport those on the inside, like Palestinian rioters, who seek to destroy the Jewish State and celebrate in the streets when innocent Israeli civilians are killed. Hate speech constitutes free speech, even if it is unpleasant, but violence is deadlier than hateful words.
Finally, some groups that endorse BDS (IfNotNow, for example, and the U.S. Presbyterian Church) were not on the list. If Israel is going to ban groups that embrace BDS, it must be consistent. Otherwise, the ban exemplifies hypocrisy.
Overall, freedom of expression must be upheld as a universal value by a democratic state. The issue of barring people from entering Israel should relate to national security, which is why I do not oppose banning people who may present a physical threat. The difference between speech and violence must not be ignored.
By Jackson Richman
Jackson Richman is an editor and daily columnist for The National Discourse, an upstart publication presenting diverse viewpoints on contemporary issues, in addition to what’s under-reported and outside “The Bubble.” He can be followed on Twitter at @jacksonrichman.