The issue of British nationals being denied entry into Israel under new laws banning boycotters has been raised in Parliament, after the Government said 19 Brits had sought consular assistance in 2018.
Middle East Minister Alistair Burt revealed the figure in the House of Commons for the first time this week in response to a question from the Green Party’s sole MP Caroline Lucas.
Burt said he did not know how many Brits had been denied entry since the Israeli law passed in 2017, because Israeli authorities did not provide the data, but said: “In 2018 the Foreign and Commonwealth Office received 19 requests for assistance from British nationals held at the Israeli border.”
Israeli politicians passed the Entry into Israel Law in March 2017, banning foreigners who make “public calls for boycotting Israel” or “any lands under its control,” including settlements, or who belong to organisations which call for boycotts.
Critics said it violates the right to free speech and fails to distinguish between those who advocate the boycott of Israel and the boycott of settlements, and more recent examples of Brits denied entry suggests that Israeli authorities are extending the ban to cover those who criticise Israel, even if they do not advocate a boycott.
While acknowledging Israel’s right to set its own immigration police, the lack of clarity led Sir Simon McDonald, permanent secretary at the FCO, to raise the issue with Israeli peers directly. Three weeks after the Israeli law passed, the then Middle East Minister Tobias Ellwood appeared to suggest it was misplaced.
“The British Government is strongly opposed to the Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel,” said Ellwood. “But we believe the best way to combat this movement is through argument rather than legislation.”
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