I and other Israeli human rights activists, Sahar Vardi, Ofer Neiman, Rachel Giora and Kobi Snitz, filed a freedom of information request regarding the Israeli government’s recently revealed “blacklist” of BDS activist. The request for the list of names and the way in which this list was compiled was submitted to the Ministry of Interior and the Population and Immigration Authority.
The BDS blacklist was made public yesterday when Haaretz reported that Israel sent a foreign airline the names of seven international activists, of whom five were then denied boarding a plane at a Washington, DC airport. In response, Israel’s Ministry of Interior stated, “These are high profile activists who have promoted boycotts against Israel.”
According to an Israeli law passed in March banning the entry of foreign BDS activists is indeed legal by Israeli rules, but there are grave questions raised by the process in which the decisions on who to ban was made. As well, it is alarming that Israel gave a blacklist to a foreign airline, in this case, Lufthansa, who then prohibited the boarding of U.S. passengers in a U.S. airport. Meaning, the Israeli law to ban BDS activists was actually imposed in the U.S., not in Israel.
There is a risk of a slippery slope in Israel maintaining blacklists of international activists who were acting within the rights of free speech accorded to them in the state of their citizenship. The risk also applies to the sharing of lists with foreign entities and companies without any transparency offered to those individuals and the organizations who were put on the list.
Years before Israel approved the ban of foreign BDS activists, it passed a similar piece of legislation in 2011 aimed at Israeli citizens. In the Law for Prevention of Damage to the State of Israel through Boycott, the definition of what is a “boycott” is extremely vague. One fears that the black lists will be expanded and abused for political purposes by Israeli politicians and other Israeli elements that are interested in eliminating resistance to the Israeli occupation both in Israel and abroad.
While those involved in the recent case are U.S. citizens, there is a question as to whether Israel has also delivered a blacklist of names to non-democratic states that persecute human rights and opposition activists, thereby putting those potential people who could be on a list in harm’s way. Furthermore, there the question of reciprocity, i.e. mutual sharing of information and handling of activists whose names between countries. One recalls similar policies by the military juntas in Latin America and dictatorships in Africa which received security aid from Israel. One could also note the case of U.S. citizen Charles Horman, who was kidnapped, tortured and murdered immediately after Pinochet’s coup in Chile in 1973, apparently based on information as to his being a radical left activist, transferred to the junta by U.S. intelligence agents.
Therefore, we have asked in our FOIA request to receive the criteria and procedures that determined which person or organization was added to the blacklist; any protocols or decisions as to how a person or organization was added to the blacklist; any background information gathered on a person or an organization in advance of a decision to add them to the blacklist; details of persons and organizations on the blacklist; messages, appeals and correspondence with foreign entities (airlines, states, foreign security forces, etc.) regarding the blacklist, and persons and organizations on it.
See the FOIA request here [Hebrew].