Israeli ministers calls for power to deport activists

By Nathan Jeffay, January 20, 2011
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Hurndall (on ground) and Corrie were ‘human shields’

Hurndall (on ground) and Corrie were ‘human shields’

Israeli ministers could get the power to deport foreign activists who take "action against the state" if a newly drafted bill passes.

The legislation by Likud MK Yariv Levin would allow a panel consisting of the Interior Minister, Defence Minister and Foreign Minister to block entry or deport from Israeli-controlled territory individuals they deem to be harming Israeli interests.

It specifies that this could be by speech, action, participation in lawsuits against Israeli officials or "hostile activity including demonstrations".

News of the bill comes hot on the heels of the Knesset's decision to probe foreign sources of finance for Israeli human-rights groups. It will be tabled over the coming weeks.

Israelis widely view foreign activists with Palestinian groups like the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) as naive troublemakers.

ISM has become high-profile since American student Rachel Corrie was crushed to death by an Israeli bulldozer while acting as a human shield in Gaza in March 2003 and British student Thomas Hurndall was killed in Gaza by an Israeli soldier nine months later.

The bill is aimed at groups like ISM, as well as some left-wing Israeli groups. Michal Gerstler, spokeswoman for Mr Levin, said that it is a necessary measure to give Israel "the power to deal with people who want, from Israeli territory, to hurt the people, the country, the soldiers, security and foreign relations".

Dismissing critics, she said that "no country in the world" tolerates or would be prepared to tolerate foreign activists against its authority in the way that Israel does.

Ronit Sela, spokeswoman for the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, said that the bill is "very worrying" because it is "not about what people are doing but about what people are saying" and because it runs counter to democratic rights. Arik Ascherman, head of Rabbis For Human Rights, said it constitutes a proposal to introduce "thought police" to Israel.

Last updated: 2:12pm, January 20 2011