On January 7, Israel’s Strategic Affairs Ministry published a blacklist of twenty organizations, whose members will be barred from entering Israel/Palestine because these groups support the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement. In addition to six U.S. organizations (American Friends Service Committee, American Muslims for Palestine, Code Pink, Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), National Students for Justice in Palestine, and the U.S. Campaign for Palestinian Rights), the list names a Chilean, South African, one international, and eleven European organizations. This is only the latest move in Israel’s continuous attempts to quash the grassroots BDS movement.
Targeting BDS has become a major political issue in Israel. As the movement has become increasingly effective, Israel has passed anti-BDS laws and invested millions of dollars in public campaigns, lobbying, and social media efforts to contain its success.
Based on visions of justice and equality, in 2005, Palestinian civil society called for BDS. The move represents a non-violent response to Israel’s continual flouting of international law and denial of Palestinian rights, as well as the international community’s consistent failure to intervene and rectify the situation. BDS peacefully pressures Israel to end its illegal occupation, dismantle the wall its has built to steal Palestinian land and exclude Palestinian people from Israel, recognize the fundamental political, civil, and social rights of Palestinians living inside Israel and the occupied territories, and respect the rights of Palestinian refugees. Israel, which claims to be the only democracy in the Middle East, views these demands as threatening. With its embrace of permanent military occupation, apartheid, and settler-colonialism, it is no wonder notions of justice and equality strike fear into the heart of the Israeli state.
Israel is particularly threatened by Jewish organizations that challenge its hegemony. It is thus no coincidence that the blacklisting of JVP was announced separately from the rest of the groups. As the leading anti-Zionist, Jewish organization with over 200,000 members, JVP threatens Israel’s claim to represent worldwide Jewry, ethno-religiously and politically. JVP’s guiding principles, which include solidarity, accountability, equality and respect for the humanity of all, are anathema to settler-colonialism, military occupation, and apartheid. Describing JVP as attempting to “reassure its supporters that opposition to Israel does not contradict Jewish values, but that it is actually consistent with them,” the staunchly Zionist Anti-Defamation League (ADL) has accused the group of supporting anti-Semitism.
For the entirety of its existence, Israel has successfully evaded its obligation to extend equality, justice, and democracy to Palestinians. While it may be able to pressure politicians and mainstream media to support its crimes, silencing a powerful grassroots movement that has spread internationally is another matter. People around the world are answering Palestinian civil society’s call for an end to the occupation and equal rights for Palestinians. And there is nothing Israel can do to stop this.