On Monday, just hours after President Trump issued his revised executive order on immigration, lawmakers in Israel passed a travel ban that is also generating controversy. The new law aims to bar any foreign activist “who has knowingly issued a public call to boycott the state of Israel or pledged to take part in such a boycott” from entering the country.
Among its many confusing components, “it is not entirely clear what constitutes a public call, or how the ban will be enforced,” as my colleague Yasmeen Serhan noted earlier. However, the law will apply to those who boycott Israel and its institutions (but who may still want to visit Israel to protest or organize efforts against the country) as well as those who boycott Israeli settlements, which have long drawn international censure. Essentially, the ban formalizes an improvised policy whereby Israel’s interior ministry has blocked the entry of some pro-Palestinian activists into Israel in the past.
Despite being quite different in letter, the spirit of the new Israeli measure quickly drew comparisons to the American president’s executive order. “On the same day President Trump signed a new racist, Islamophobic executive order, the Knesset has shown that it, too, will make it a matter of law and policy to use discriminatory tests to decide who may enter Israel,” Daniel Sokatch, the head of the New Israel Fund, an American organization that donates to progressive causes in Israel, told The Washington Post. A spokesman for Bezalel Smotrich, an Israeli legislator who supported the law, previously alluded to the American travel ban, saying, “[W]ithout going into the policies of the [U.S.] president, every sovereign nation must set its policies in accordance with what is good for it.”