Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday decided to bar Reps. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) and Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) from entering Israel ahead of a trip scheduled to begin Sunday. The two Muslim congresswomen had planned to visit several West Bank towns and Jerusalem.
The move is unprecedented: Israel has never prohibited sitting members of Congress from entering the country. But the practice of blacklisting high-profile critics is not new. Israel has routinely blocked people sympathetic to Palestinians from entering the country and the Palestinian territories.
Debate over whether the congresswomen would be allowed in arose after Israel recently passed a law denying entry visas to foreign nationals who support efforts to boycott Israel or its West Bank settlements. The measure aims to target the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement protesting Israel’s treatment of Palestinians.
Here are some of the politicians, activists and academics who have been blocked from entering Israel in recent years:
Former Dublin mayor Micheal Mac Donncha:
Israel blacklisted Donncha, then Dublin’s mayor, last year over the politician’s support for BDS, according to the Jerusalem Post.
Donncha is part of the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign, which circulates a guide of products made in Israel that it urges supporters to avoid. The group pushes for these items to be taken off Ireland’s shelves and calls on Irish officials to end the bilateral arms trade between Ireland and Israel. Donncha also supported calls to expel Israel’s ambassador to Ireland, according to the Israeli news outlet Haaretz.
Ahead of Donncha’s planned visit in April 2018, Israel’s interior minister ordered immigration officials to stop him if he tried to travel to Ramallah for a Palestinian solidarity conference, the Jerusalem Post reported.
But a convenient typo allowed Donncha to slip into Israel anyway. Israeli officials had mistakenly entered the wrong name on their watch list, the Times of London reported. Donncha confirmed via Twitter that he had made it to Ramallah — a revelation that drew condemnation from Netanyahu.
Upon Donncha’s departure, Israeli officials made him sign a document saying he would seek permission before attempting to enter the country again, Haaretz reported.
Patrice Leclerc, mayor of French town of Gennevilliers:
Israel prevented Leclerc, mayor of the Paris suburb of Gennevilliers, from crossing into the West Bank from Jordan with his wife in April 2018, according to Middle East Eye.
“The decision not to let him into the country was made for a series of reasons in connection to his activity in the BDS movement and his promotion of boycotts against Israel,” Israel’s Interior Ministry said in a statement at the time.
Leclerc had formally recognized the Palestinian territories as a state on behalf of his town in January 2018 — a move that sparked controversy in France and prompted the National Bureau Against Anti-Semitism to place pressure on the regional government to rescind the law. Leclerc overturned the declaration a few weeks after issuing it, Middle East Eye reported.
Five months earlier, Israeli authorities banned a delegation of French politicians who had voiced support for the BDS movement.
The group — which included Leclerc, other French mayors, European Union parliamentarians and the head of the French Communist Party — had hoped to visit Israel and the Palestinian territories on a five-day trip in November 2017. They had requested to meet jailed Palestinian leader Marwan Barghouti, a demand that did not sit well with Israeli Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan, the Jerusalem Post reported.
“We are talking about senior European officials who come to act against Israel,” Erdan said at the time. “After examining the background and circumstances, I decided that the delegation had no place in Israel.”
American student Lara Alqasem
Israel detained Alqasem, a young American woman from Florida, at a border detention facility for two weeks in October before Israel’s Supreme Court ruled that the government had to allow her to enter the country.
Israeli authorities had initially stopped Alqasem — who was moving to Jerusalem to start a master’s degree — because she had served as president of Students for Justice in Palestine while attending the University of Florida. The group advocates boycotting Israel. Alqasem, whose father is Palestinian, also reportedly attended a protest of an Israeli hummus brand.
The then-22-year-old became the 15th person prevented from entering under Israel’s 2017 law aimed at excluding foreigners affiliated with BDS — and the first to challenge it in court.
When Israeli authorities revoked her student visa, Alqasem appealed her case all the way up to Israel’s highest court, which ruled that blocking her would damage Israel’s democracy.
“The inevitable impression is that invalidating the visa given to her was due to the political opinions she holds,” the judges wrote. “If this is truly the case, then we are talking about an extreme and dangerous step, which could lead to the crumbling of the pillars upon which democracy in Israel stands.”
Erdan, who is in charge of implementing the entry restriction, said that the Supreme Court had “granted BDS a great victory.”
U.N. human rights investigator Makarim Wibisono
Wibisono, the U.N. investigator for human rights violations in the Palestinian territories, resigned his post in January 2016 after Israel refused to grant him access to the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Wibisono had repeatedly requested to visit the territories over 18 months, the Independent reported. Israel, which does not recognize the post of independent investigator, said Wibisono’s mandate was “distorted and biased” against the Jewish state.
In a March 2015 report, Wibisono had urged Israel to investigate the killing of up to 1,500 Palestinian civilians during the 2014 Gaza war. In the news release announcing his resignation, Wibisono said his efforts “have been frustrated every step of the way.”
Raed Jarrar, Amnesty International staff member
In October 2017, Israeli authorities stopped Jarrar, Amnesty International USA’s advocacy director for the Middle East and North Africa, from crossing into the West Bank from Jordan, according to an Amnesty news release. Jarrar was on his way to visit his family in the Palestinian territories after the death of his father.
Israeli officials interrogated Jarrar about his visit, his family and his work with the human rights organization, the release said. One official reportedly asked him why Amnesty International had “a problem” with Israel and appeared to make reference to the organization’s campaign urging states to ban imports of items produced in Israeli settlements.
After they interrogated him, Israeli authorities gave Jarrar a document outlining the reasons he was denied entry, which included “public security” and “prevention of illegal immigration,” according to Amnesty.
“Refusing entry to a human rights advocate because they work for an organization that has criticized human rights violations by Israel would constitute a blatant assault on freedom of expression,” Philip Luther, research and advocacy director for the Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty International, said in a statement.
According to the Times of Israel, a spokeswoman for Erdan said Jarrar had been denied entry over BDS.