State Department: Israel’s anti-BDS law is ‘sovereign decision’

State Department refuses to condemn Israeli law barring BDS activists from entering country.

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Acting State Department Spokesperson Mark Toner
Acting State Department Spokesperson Mark Toner
Joshua Roberts / Reuters

JTA - A new law that would ban entry to Israel of foreigners who publicly support boycotts of the Jewish state is Israel’s “sovereign decision,” a State Department spokesperson said.

In a briefing to reporters on Wednesday, Mark Toner said that while the United States opposes boycotts of Israel, it is up to Israel to make decisions regarding its borders.

“While we oppose boycotts and sanctions of the state of Israel, we also support firmly freedom of expression,” Toner said. “That said, it’s – this is a sovereign decision for Israel to make regarding its borders.”

The law, adopted Monday by the Knesset, bans entry to foreigners who publicly call for boycotting the Jewish state.

According to the new law, the ban applies to any foreigner “who knowingly issues a public call for boycotting Israel that, given the content of the call and the circumstances in which it was issued, has a reasonable possibility of leading to the imposition of a boycott – if the issuer was aware of this possibility.” It includes those who urge limiting boycotts to areas under Israeli control but not yet annexed, such as the Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria.

Backers of the bill say it would be used only against those active in organizations that support BDS, such as ISM, and would not block an individual for something she or he might once have said.