Legal rights NGO: Israel's BDS blacklist 'reminiscent of Apartheid South Africa'

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Israel's Strategic Affairs Ministry has placed the left-wing, California-based Jewish Voice for Peace and five other US groups on a BDS blacklist.

Among the banned groups are the Paris-based Association France Palestine Solidarite, British charity War on Want and the American Friends Service Committee - a Nobel Peace Prize-winning US Quaker organisation. It follows up on a law passed past year that bars visits by non-citizens and non-residents who support the boycott or belong to organizations that do.

The list, published by the Strategic Affairs Ministry, includes 20 BDS-linked organizations, majority from Europe and the US.

The BDS campaign encourages people to boycott Israel, urges universities and other organizations to divest from the country, and calls for global sanctions until Tel Aviv complies with worldwide law with respect to Palestinians and withdraws from Palestinian land.

Those who would be banned, the spokesperson said, were "the main activists who have demonstrated ongoing, consistent and significant action to promote and advance the boycott of Israel".

American pro-Israel groups such as the Anti-Defamation League and the American Israel Public Affairs Committee have accused JVP of exploiting its status as a Jewish organization to bolster the BDS movement. Supporters say the BDS movement uses peaceful means to pressure the Israeli government, but Jerusalem sees it as a strategic threat motivated by anti-Semitic animus against the Jewish state.

"Forming a list is another step in our campaign against the false propaganda of boycott organizations", Erdan said.

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Asad Rehman, the executive director of War on Want, one of the organizations blacklisted by Israel, said the move is part of a wider crackdown on the BDS movement.

Hassan Jabareen, general director of Adalah - The Legal Centre for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, described the move as "reminiscent of South Africa's apartheid regime which also prepared blacklists in order to punish people and prevent the entry of those opposed to its racist policies".

"We answered the call for divestment from apartheid South Africa and we have done the same with the call for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions from Palestinians who have faced decades of human rights violations", said Kerri Kennedy, an AFSC official responsible for global programs. The movement has, predictably, caused anxiety among Israelis.

The ban is "an overt violation of the constitutional rights of Israeli citizens and the rights guaranteed to Palestinian residents of the OPT under global humanitarian and human rights law".

The spokesperson added that an inter-ministerial committee was "working out the criteria" that would necessitate barring an activist's entry into Israel. At the time of its passing, a number of worldwide human rights groups joined members of Israel's Arab Joint List party in condemning the ban, arguing that global sentiment is overwhelmingly opposed to the occupation.

As for Vilkomerson, who has family in Israel, the ban would be a "personal hardship".