No entry for supporters of Palestinians
Articles from Electronic Intifada and Haaretz and a statement from the union Unite.
Hugh Lanning addresses a Palestine Solidarity Campaign rally in the UK in 2014. Photo by PSC/Flickr
By Charlotte Silver, Electronic Intifada
March 15, 2017
Less than a week after Israel’s parliament passed a law barring entry to supporters of the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement, Israel has sought to make an example of a prominent UK activist.
Hugh Lanning, chair of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, told The Electronic Intifada that he was planning a four-day visit in occupied East Jerusalem.
But he was denied entry when he flew into Israel’s main airport near Tel Aviv on Sunday.
A few days earlier, Israeli police detained anti-occupation activist Jeff Halper, on suspicion of “incitement.” Police said they had been informed that Halper, co-founder of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions, was distributing “materials related to BDS.” They released him after concluding he had committed no violations.
A 2011 Israeli law allows advocates of boycott to be sued for damages.
Israel’s crackdown on critics is escalating just as a landmark UN report has found that Israel is guilty of the international crime of apartheid. The report calls on governments around the world to support BDS.
Israel is also showing its anger against the government of South Africa. It is reportedly planning to summon Pretoria’s ambassador for a dressing down over comments made by South African officials likening Israel’s treatment of Palestinians to apartheid.
“Hostile to Israel”
After being held for over seven hours, the Palestine Solidarity Campaign’s Lanning was told he would be denied entry because his activities were “hostile to Israel.”
No further explanation was provided to Lanning at the time he was expelled, but before he returned to London the following the morning, Israel’s immigration authority and the ministry of strategic affairs had released a statement saying Lanning was deported because of his efforts to advance the boycott of Israel.
Strategic affairs minister Gilad Erdan, who leads the country’s effort to thwart the Palestine solidarity movement, said he was working with the interior ministry to deny entry to those “acting against Israel.”
“Reality is changing,” Erdan said. “No sane country would permit entry to the main activists calling for its boycott and who work to leave it isolated.”
“They do see us as a threat and I don’t think they know what to do,” Lanning told The Electronic Intifada.
Last month, the Israeli government refused to grant Human Rights Watch’s new Palestine director, Omar Shakir, a work permit, claiming that the decades-old organization was producing “Palestinian propaganda.”
The Israeli ministries called the Palestine Solidarity Campaign a leader in the efforts to “delegitimize Israel” in Europe, adding that its website was “rife with calls to boycott Israel,” the newspaper Haaretz reported.
Lanning said he has travelled to Palestine about a dozen times since he became chair of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign in 2009 but has never experienced any problems.
On Sunday afternoon, however, he was pulled aside as he attempted to go through passport control.
“I’ve never gone through a second round of questioning after passport control, so I assumed a flag came up,” he said.
Lanning said he was questioned by three different officers, each several times. He says the interrogators were repetitive but polite.
An official told Lanning that he had never received so many phone calls from various government officials regarding a single person attempting to enter the country.
“They were seeking guidance,” Lanning observed. “It wasn’t a decision being made by airport people.”
Questioned about politics
Lanning said he was questioned about his political activities and contacts and if he was a BDS activist.
The Israelis were clearly searching the internet for information about him.
At one point, an airport interrogator presented an image from 2012 of Lanning with a delegation entering Gaza from Egypt. The photo showed Lanning speaking at a podium at a reception ceremony that allegedly included representatives of the Hamas government.
The interrogators also asked Lanning to confirm whether an entry on Wikipedia crediting him with “a major role” in building trade union support for Palestine was about him.
The Palestine Solidarity Campaign has been a frequent target for Israel advocates since the Reut Institute, an influential Israeli think tank, identified it as a leading “delegitimizer” of Israel.
In 2015, it was revealed that Israeli military intelligence was collecting information on left-wing organizations that promote the boycott of Israel in other countries.
During his interrogation, Lanning said he remained upbeat, even making sarcastic jokes.
But he told The Electronic Intifada he is deeply sad to be turned away, possibly never to be allowed entry again to a place he has formed friendships and alliances. Lanning was told that if he wants to enter the country in future he would have to apply for permission.
“Israel keeps on saying that they’re a democracy and then proving they’re not,” Lanning said.
“It feels like I have been cut off,” Lanning added. “This is what happens to Palestinians every day. You can’t be a democracy while you keep millions of people under siege and military occupation.”
Hugh Lanning, who heads the pro-BDS Palestine Solidarity Campaign, prevented from entering; We won’t allow key boycott supporters to come, minister says.
By Barak Ravid and Ilan Lior, Haretz
March 13, 2017
Israel’s Population and Immigration Authority and the Strategic Affairs Ministry prevented Hugh Lanning, the chairman of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, from entering Israel on Sunday night. In a joint statement by the two offices, the ministries said the decision was due to Lanning’s ongoing efforts to advance a boycott of Israel and was reached following consultation with the Foreign Ministry.
Lanning is expected to board a plane back to the U.K. early Monday morning.
The statement claimed that the organization led by Lanning, the PSC, is the leading force in the effort to delegitimize Israel in Britain and among the biggest in Europe. According to the statement, the group cooperates “with other delegitimizing organizations to promote the boycott [of Israel] and other activities against the state of Israel.”
Some of the PSC’s members also participated in the Mavi Marmara Gaza flotilla, the statement said, adding that the PSC website is rife with calls to boycott Israel.
Israel further claimed that Lanning also maintains ties to Hamas’ leadership in Gaza. In 2012, Lanning visited Gaza and met with top figures from the Islamist group, including its leader Ismail Haniyeh, the statement said. “Lanning has personally and consistently promoted a boycott against Israel and has made so abundantly clear in public,” the statement said.
Gilad Erdan, Israel’s strategic affairs minister said that together with the Interior Ministry he is leading a new policy to prevent entry to those working to harm Israel: “Those acting against Israel need to understand that reality is changing. No sane country would permit entry to the main activists calling for its boycott and who work leave it isolated.”
Interior Minister Arye Dery, who oversees the immigration authority, said “those working against Israel and doing everything they can to undermine its security must understand that we will not ignore the attempts to undermine our existence. The decision reached tonight sends an unequivocal message to pro-boycott activist, the law passed last week is another step in this policy.
Last week, the Knesset approved a law that would automatically deny entry to people who knowingly and publicly support boycotts against Israel and territory under its control, or who represent an organization that does so, unless the interior minister chooses to allow them in. Under the old law, BDS supporters were not specifically singled out unless the interior minister chose to prevent their entry into the country.
On Thursday, a Human Rights Watch researcher who was initially refused a work visa was allowed to enter on a tourist visa.
Unite the union has expressed outrage at the deportation from Israel of Hugh Lanning, chair of Palestine Solidarity Campaign. He has become the first victim of a law passed by the Israeli parliament banning those advocating Boycott Divestment and Sanctions from entering Israel.
The new law states that entry will not be granted to anyone who individually calls for a boycott of the state of Israel, or who is part of an organisation that calls for a boycott of the state of Israel.
The ban extends to those who call for a boycott of any areas under the control of Israel, including settlements in the West Bank, which are regarded as illegal under international law. Israel’s restriction of British citizens’ freedom to travel has the potential to see prominent figures such as parliamentarians, trade union leaders, cultural figures and academics banned from Israel.
Human Rights Watch has said:
“This decision and the spurious rationale should worry anyone concerned about Israel’s commitment to basic democratic values. It is disappointing that the Israeli government seems unable or unwilling to distinguish between justified criticisms of its actions and hostile political propaganda.”
In condemning Hugh Lanning’s deportation Unite general secretary Len McCluskey said:
“Unite opposes any abuse of human and democratic rights. The new law to ban entry to foreigners who advocate the non-violent boycott, divestment and sanctions movement, violates fundamental freedoms which are essential to a democracy. A democratic country does not behave in the way Israel is behaving.
“If Israel believes that by introducing these heavy handed laws it will intimidate its critics into silence it is mistaken. Unite and the wider trade union movement will not stop highlighting the systematic violation of Palestinian human rights.
“We call upon the British government to make clear to Israel that it is not acceptable for it to ban entry to British citizens who advocate for the human rights of the Palestinian people and to peacefully protest against policies that violate those rights.”