This is apparently due to a law recently approved by Israel's parliament that bans anyone supporting BDS from entering the country.
Hawwash, a professor at Birmingham University, was on his way to visit relatives in east Jerusalem with his wife and 5-year-old son for Easter when he was detained. Leaving the family in tears, he was forced to fly back to the United Kingdom instead of carrying on with his trip. He said he was “personally devastated” after the entire ordeal.
And now, he fears he won't be able to visit the family's elderly relatives living in Occupied Palestinian Territories again.
“I go regularly every year to visit my family,” he told reporters, “so this was not an out of the ordinary visit.”
Adding that he never “[undertakes] political work while” visiting family, Hawwash said he was “clearly on a wanted list.”
As he presented his passport at Tel Aviv's Ben Gurion airport, an officer with “a pile of papers” was “pointing to tweets they said I had written. They were clearly ready for me.”
The officer then told him: “We have a problem with you.”
Hawwash explained to the officer that he had been vice-chair of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) until early 2017 and that he was now part of the organization's executive committee. But the officer accused him of being involved in an anti-Israel organization.
As the officer asked him about his Twitter posts, Hawwash then asked to see the English originals before commenting since the version officials had had been translated into Hebrew.
It's not clear whether officials ever showed them the tweets in English.
While the professor's family was allowed to enter Israel, Hawwash was handed a document citing Israel's law barring him from the country. He was then put on a plane headed to Brussels.
“A couple of hours before the flight I was taken for a full body search,” Hawwash stated, “even though I had just come from Birmingham and Brussels and hadn’t been out of the airport. Just part of their humiliation practice.”
Once he arrived in Brussels, officials handed him to the Belgian police.
“You're made to feel like a criminal,” Hawwash said.
When commenting about the incident, the Israeli embassy in London said that the professor had praised “the perpetrators of terror as martyrs,” adding that “[t]hose who promote extremism should not be allowed to foment their hatred in Israel” as the country is “seeking a peaceful resolution to its conflict with the Palestinians.”
If that's the case, is there anything more peaceful than boycotting institutions or organizations you do not agree with instead of using deadly force to fight against them?
After the incident, Richard Burden, a Labor MP representing Birmingham Northfield, said that Hawwash's entry denial was “utterly shocking.” He stated:
“Following the Knesset’s decision to pass the new entry restrictions I had already been in touch with the government and the Israeli Embassy over how this ban would affect people living in Britain.
My constituent [Hawwash] is being denied entry not only to Israel, but to the Occupied Palestinian Territories and access to his family — it is utterly shocking that now he may never see them again.
The relaxed attitude our ministers are showing to Israel’s actions is scandalous. Human rights defenders in Israel have rightly spoken out against this new law preventing peaceful campaigners from visiting their country.
It is time for British ministers to speak out too.”
Hugh Lanning, who serves as the chair of the PSC, was the first British citizen to be denied entry to Israel after the law was approved in January. But to members of the PSC organization, there's nothing threatening about BDS.
According to PSC director Ben Jamal, “[t]he bottom line is that Israel is using its new boycott law to ban foreign human rights activists.”
Adding that the “BDS movement peacefully pressures Israel to comply with international law and cease human rights violations,” Jamal added that the Israeli government sees human rights activism as “a security threat. Fundamental democratic norms and freedoms don’t matter.”
“The British government must demand that Israel ceases this harassment,” he concluded.
It's telling that the Israeli government sees a peaceful activity, such as boycotts, as a threatening and aggressive method of achieving political goals. What would they prefer, that those sympathetic to the Palestinian people throw bombs?
It's high time for a serious conversation regarding the striking differences between violent and peaceful methods of showing discontent if the Israeli government is serious about achieving a peaceful solution to the problems at hand.
Banner/thumbnail credit: Reuters