A British academic and vice-chair of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign has been banned from Israel as he sought to visit family members in east Jerusalem.
Kamel Hawwash, a professor of linguistics at Birmingham University, was denied entry at the Israeli border as he travelled with his wife and five-year old son for the Easter break, because he backs boycotts.
He has chaired the British Palestine Twinning Network, the Midlands Community Association and served as vice-chair of the PSC for the past eight years. He has travelled to Israel and the Palestinian territories for decades, and is believed to be one of the first British citizens to be banned from Israel following a controversial new law barring entry to those who support boycotts of Israel or of settlements.
Hawwash caused upset in February last year by defending the man who murdered two Israeli men and injured a woman and baby in 2015, calling him “a martyr” because he was subsequently shot and killed by police.
Speaking at a House of Commons event, Hawwash said Mohammad Halabi was “one of the first people, martyrs of the current intifada starting in October – now I call him a martyr because I am speaking from a Palestinian perspective”.
This week Hawwash said he was “devastated” at the ban, adding: “I have been denied entry to my homeland. I cannot be with my wife and son for our holiday. I have elderly relatives that I will never see again if I am not allowed to enter in the future. I had to leave my wife and son alone in the airport in tears.”
Hawwash’s MP, Richard Burden, said: “Kamel is being denied entry not only to Israel, but to the Occupied Palestinian Territories and access to his family. It is utterly shocking that now he may never see them again. The relaxed attitude our ministers are showing to Israel’s actions is scandalous.”
PSC director Ben Jamal said: “Israel is using its new boycott law to ban foreign human rights activists… According to the Israeli government, human rights activism is a security threat. Fundamental democratic norms and freedoms don’t matter. The British government must demand that Israel ceases this harassment.”