Israel's parliament passed a law Monday barring foreigners who publicly support boycotts on Israel and its illegal Jewish settlements in occupied Palestinian lands from entering the country, a sign that the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement is gaining momentum and alarming the occupation government.
"In recent years calls to boycott Israel have been growing," parliament said on its website after the law was approved. "It seems this is a new front in the war against Israel, which until now the country had not prepared for properly."
The law says that the ban would apply not only to people who call for boycotts against Israel but also to those who call for boycotts of any Israeli entity or any “area under its control,” in an implicit reference to the illegal settlements, the Israeli left-leaning daily Haaretz reported Monday.
The ban also includes those Palestinians with temporary residency in Israel, such as those allowed in the country under the family unification program. Those who spend several years with a temporary status before becoming permanent residents are excluded from the ban.
The Israeli Justice Ministry had urged lawmakers behind the bill to exclude those with temporary residency to avoid a court challenge but the lawmakers refused to do so. It was unclear when the new policy would take effect, and the law says exceptions could be made.
The vote passed 46 to 28, with some in the opposition saying the new law will play into the hands of those attacking Israel.
Israel has long decried groups like the BDS movement which calls for boycotting Israel over its continuing occupation of the West Bank, its blockade on Gaza as well as its illegal settlement expansion on Palestinian lands.
In recent years, BDS has grown into an effective international effort as many companies and celebrities join efforts to hold Israel accountable for illegal actions against Palestinians.
Israel has been feeling the effects of that boycott campaign as its anti-BDS laws at home attest, while also lobbying its allies to crack down on the BDS movement in their own countries.
Last year, Israeli ministers set up a task force to spy on hundreds of activists and organizations in the country and in the Palestinian West Bank who support BDS.
Most countries around the world see the Israeli Jewish settlements as illegal and an obstacle to any potential peace between Israelis and Palestinians. Many organizations in Europe and the United States have been calling to boycott products made in settlements.
The European Union last year approved a law labeling products made in the illegal settlements in the West Bank as such without banning their import, a move that Netanyahu called “anti-Semitic.”
The inclusion of calls for boycotts against settlements in the new law shows that the right-wing government of Benjamin Netanyahu has been emboldened by the election of U.S. President Donald Trump, who has softened Washington’s decades-long policy against the settlements.