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In its latest step to ban travelers supporting the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement, Israel’s Strategic Affairs Ministry confirmed last Saturday that it has banned members of twenty international organizations that support Palestinian rights and the BDS movement, from entering Israel. Among these organizations are Jewish Voice for Peace, the U.S. Campaign for Palestinian Rights (USCPR), the American Friends Service Committee, Code Pink, and U.K.-based War on Want. Under the ban, the parameters of exclusion are broad. According to Haaretz, “those who hold senior or important positions in blacklisted organizations will be denied entry, as well as key activists, even if they hold no official position.”

These developments are shocking but not surprising. In July, a contingent of American peace activists, several of whom were JVP members, were not allowed to board their flight to Israel from Dulles International Airport in Washington DC, as the Israeli government had notified the airline that they were prohibited to enter the country.

Over the years, Israel has become notorious for its arbitrary  denials of entry to travelers, especially those of Arab descent. In 2016 alone, over 16,000 travelers were denied entry, compared to just about 1,900 in 2011. Those who have been turned away have reported being held for hours at a time, asked to explain if they had Arab heritage, subjected to humiliating strip searches, and given no reason for the decision to turn them back at the border. 

The travel ban also underscores the Israeli government’s deep fears of BDS. In a statement on the ban issued by USCPR, the organization’s director, Yousef Munayyer said, “It is clear to us how effective building the movement for Palestinian rights around the world has become… As in the effort against apartheid in South Africa, this blacklist and repressive efforts like it will be mere footnotes in the historic march toward freedom, justice and equality.”

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