The country often denies entry to people they consider to be pro-Palestinian foreign activists. But, for the first time, Israel has refused a visa to a person on the grounds of being allegedly involved in the BDS movement.
Isabel Phiri formerly worked as an assistant general secretary with the World Council of Churches (WCC), an organization that reportedly has been supporting the BDS movement since 2002.
Israel's interior minister, Aryeh Deri, said in a statement to media, "Granting an entry permit to activists such as Phiri would in effect reinforce the wrongful activities she and her peers are advancing and I have no intention of lending a hand to that. I will use any authority at my disposal to avert harm to Israel."
According to the Israeli interior ministry statements, the WCC was connected with the Ecumenical Accompaniment Program in Palestine, which seeks "to change the international community's involvement in the conflict, urging them to act against injustice in the region," and promote "a future in which the occupation of Palestine has ended and both Palestinians and Israelis enjoy a just peace with freedom and security based on international law."
The WCC conducted an accompaniment program under which 1,500 volunteers were brought to Israel.
This precedent-setting case comes after both Interior Minister Deri and Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan announced a plan to keep BDS supporters out of Israel, and deport those already in the country.
"The place of the boycotters is outside the country's borders and we shall continue to do everything possible to prevent them from entering our country," Erdan said.
The BDS movement aims to encourage global financial institutions and others to end their participation in the economy of Israel, until such time as the country departs from territories in the Middle East that it has seized, and recognizes the State of Palestine as a sovereign nation.