Israel denies entry to Amnesty International staffer due to alleged ‘BDS activities’

Israel/Palestine
on 12 Comments

Israeli border authorities on Monday denied entry to Raed Jarrar, an American citizen and the advocacy director for the Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty International USA. Jarrar was on his way to be with family and grieve the recent death of his father, but was instead turned back to Jordan, as Israeli authorities refused to allow him entry.

In a statement released by Amnesty condemning the denial, the group said Jarrar’s refusal was a “retaliation against the organization’s human rights work.”

Meanwhile, Israel’s Foreign Ministry told local media that Jarrar, whose family is originally Palestinian, was denied on a personal basis due to his alleged “BDS activities,” referring to the Boycott Divest and Sanctions movement.

In September, Amnesty International became the first organization that Israel said it would strip of its tax exempt status due to the group’s support of boycotting settlement products.

Philip Luther, Research and advocacy director for the Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty International, said the fact that Jarrar was barred entry after being interrogated about his work at Amnesty “appears to suggest that this move was taken in retaliation for the organization’s work on human rights violations” in the occupied Palestinian territory.

“This appears to be another ominous signal of the Israeli authorities’ resolve to silence human rights organizations and activists who are critical of the Israeli government. It flies in the face of the government’s repeated claims that Israel is a tolerant state, respectful of human rights,” Luther said. 

” I was on a personal trip with Alli, hoping to visit my dad’s extended family and grieve with them in the wake of his passing,” Raed Jarrar wrote on social media when posting this image. (Photo: Raed Jarrar/Facebook)

Jarrar posted a document on Twitter that was handed to him by Israeli authorities as reason for his denial at the King Hussein Bridge (Allenby Bridge) crossing between Jordan and the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

Under “Reason for denial,” Israeli authorities listed “Prevention of illegal immigration,” and “public security or public safety or public order considerations” in two bullet points.

“That moment when working for @amnestyusa is a threat to ‘public security.’ Also, the irony of denying a Palestinian as ‘illegal immigration,’” Jarrar posted on Twitter with a partial photo of the document. Jarrar’s father was born and raised in Palestine.

Questioned along with Jarrar, Alli McCracken, the North America Campaigner for Amnesty International, also posted on Twitter following the incident:

“Today Israeli authorities denied @raedjarrar entry into #Palestine. We were going to visit his extended family, to grieve the loss of his father. After extensive questioning of Raed about Amnesty International’s project calling for the ban of Israeli settlement goods and intrusive questions about the content of my cell phone (yes, they took it from me), they abruptly deported us to Jordan. It’s a very sad day when an Amnesty International staffer can’t travel to #Palestine to be with family during a personal grieving time,” McCracken said in a string of posts.

McCracken was not denied entry, but chose to turn back to Jordan in solidarity with Jarrar. According to Amnesty, McCracken, who has no Palestinian roots, had been to the occupied West Bank six times previously and “has taken part in solidarity events such as the annual olive harvest.”

In March, Israel amended its Entry to Israel Law, allowing Israeli authorities to deny entry to any foreign national advocating for the BDS of Israeli goods.

It was not the first time Israeli legislation sought to punish those calling for BDS. In 2011, Israeli passed the Anti-Boycott law, making it illegal for Israeli individuals and institutions to call for the boycott of Israeli institutions or companies as a way to condemn Israel’s occupation of Palestinians or illegal settlement activities.

Raed Jarrar holds a document notifying him that he was prevented from entering Israel. (Alli McCracken/Facebook)

In its statement Amnesty spoke out against both laws, saying they are “contrary to Israel’s obligation to uphold the rights to freedom of expression and to non-discrimination on grounds of political opinion.”

The group also stressed that it “takes no position on boycotts,” but instead “supports the right to advocate for boycotts as a form of advocacy protected by the right to freedom of expression.”

It was not immediately clear whether Jarrar plans to take legal action to challenge his denial. Jarrar could not be immediately reached for comment.

People with Palestinian heritage who do not hold Palestinian or Israeli citizenship or residency are often targets of visa denials and entry refusals by the Israeli government, which controls and has the ability to approve or deny all entry to the occupied West Bank.

About Sheren Khalel

Sheren Khalel is a freelance multimedia journalist who works out of Israel, Palestine and Jordan. She focuses on human rights, women's issues and the Palestine/Israel conflict. Khalel formerly worked for Ma'an News Agency in Bethlehem, and is currently based in Ramallah and Jerusalem. You can follow her on Twitter at @Sherenk.

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12 Responses

  1. Keith
    November 1, 2017, 6:14 pm

    I think it relevant to point out that the US routinely bars folks on the Left from entering the US. One of the more famous examples was George Galloway who was at one time barred for both the US and Canada. Real terrorists come and go but non-violent peaceniks are put on no-fly lists with no appeal and little chance of removal.

    • Emory Riddle
      November 2, 2017, 8:34 am

      On behalf of Israel, of course.

      • Keith
        November 2, 2017, 10:21 am

        EMORY RIDDLE- “On behalf of Israel, of course.”

        On behalf of empire.

  2. JosephA
    November 1, 2017, 8:00 pm

    The Israelis have become arrogantly maniacal. My sentiments are with the man who is grieving.

  3. Maghlawatan
    November 2, 2017, 11:19 am

    Imagine in the future when Jews are being persecuted and those who express solidarity are turned away. You would expect Yad Va Shem Holocaust museum to stand up for human rights defenders but it would be stupid.

    • JeffB
      November 2, 2017, 3:52 pm

      @Maghlawatan

      If Jews are being persecuted there is no Israel. If there is no Israel there likely are no Jews. After Israel there is no future. All the eggs are in the Israel basket.

      • Mooser
        November 2, 2017, 5:31 pm

        “All the eggs are in the Israel basket.”

        Well, then, Jewish leaders, Zionists, have made their final mistake in a long-running series of political mistakes. Even when a country, the US was willing to take us out of that game, we jumped right back in.

  4. Marnie
    November 2, 2017, 1:47 pm

    The cowardice hiding behind so-called security concerns.

  5. ritzl
    November 2, 2017, 4:27 pm

    OT, sort of, but has anyone heard of, or screen-grapped, this alleged Dickinson, TX USA city demand that hurricane victims sign a statement that they are not boycotting Israel in order to get hurricane relief assistance?

    • Citizen
      November 3, 2017, 9:49 am

      ACLU was happy TX city changed its law to exclude individuals but states said law remains unconstitutional when applied to corporations. TX is one of 21 US states with anti-BDS laws currently.

  6. JLewisDickerson
    November 2, 2017, 8:28 pm

    RE: “Israel denies entry to Amnesty International staffer due to alleged ‘BDS activities’”

    MY COMMENT: I must really be stupid, because, for the life of me, I can’t figure out how this is an effective strategy for fighting against BDS. In fact, I’m so stupid that this actually seems like a strategy for encouraging BDS.
    Am I stupid, or what?!?!
    Come to think of it, I’m so stupid, I should be in Guinness.
    No, not that Guinness, this Guinness!

    Madonna – “I’m So Stupid”

    • JLewisDickerson
      November 3, 2017, 6:47 pm

      P.S. I might be stupid, but in no way am I “stupider than stupid”!
      Consequently, I think might have figured out how that inane strategy for (supposedly) discouraging support for BDS was devised.
      Also, I will shortly be publishing an earth-shattering exposé revealing yet another “Russian connection” (hint: neither Stravinsky, nor Sikorsky) – – in this instance being responsible for President Donald Trump’s increasingly “erratic” behavior.

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