Seven members of a 20-person delegation from Europe have been denied entry to Israel for apparently calling for a boycott on products made by Israeli companies in occupied Palestinian territories, local media report.
The delegation, which includes French members of the European Parliament, members of the French parliament and mayors of French cities, is expected to arrive next week.
On Monday, the Israeli Interior Ministry announced seven of the European officials would not be allowed to enter Israel, the Haaretz newspaper reported. The banned individuals are “senior politicians who consistently support the boycott against Israel and promote it," Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan said. The newspaper says that the Israeli authorities made their decision after discovering that the European officials had called for a boycott of Israel.
According to the minister, the delegation’s plan also included a visit to see Palestinian leader Marwan Barghouti, who is serving five cumulative life sentences plus 40 years for crimes committed by members of the al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades. The Palestinian militant movement serves as the armed wing of the Fatah movement.
“We will not permit entry to those who actively call to harm the State of Israel, especially in light of their request to meet and offer support to the archterrorist Marwan Barghouti," the minister pledged.
Haaretz cites a document of the Strategic Affairs Ministry proposing the ban on the European officials, which are described as “part of the far left in France” and members of a “Barghouti network.” The members of the French delegation that have been recommended to be barred include: MEPs Pascal Durand and Patrick Le Hyaric; French parliamentarian Clementine Autain; mayors Azzedine Taibi, Eric Roulot and Leclerc; and Pierre Laurent, the head of the French Communist Party.
Haaretz reports that the Foreign Ministry initially claimed the decision was not coordinated with them, but an hour later said it had been reviewed by the European division at the Foreign Ministry and Israeli embassy in Paris.
The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, or BDS, started in 2005 and is meant to economically and diplomatically pressure Israel into ending its occupation of Palestinian territories. In particular it supports banning the import of all products manufactured by Israeli companies in those areas. The French government in 2013 effectively criminalized the movement, branding it discriminatory.
In late October, a UN human rights (UNHRC) expert claimed that Israel violated a range of international laws and resolutions, effectively suggesting legal action, including travel bans, against the Middle Eastern state. The current "focus" on the Israeli-Palestinian issue "is not anti-Israel, it's anti-occupation," said Canadian law professor Michael Lynk, who is the UN's special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.
Lynk stressed that "Israel's role as occupier in the Palestinian Territory – the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and Gaza – has crossed a red line into illegality." Tel Aviv countered by saying the UNHRC "has lost all touch with reality."