(JTA) – More than 200 rabbis from the liberal movements of North American Judaism signed a letter opposing Israel’s travel ban on leaders of the boycott movement against Israel.
The rabbis signing Wednesday’s letter were responding to an incident last month in which Rabbi Alissa Wise of Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), which supports the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement, was prevented from boarding an Israel-bound airplane leaving Dulles Airport in Washington, D.C.
Four other people travelling to Israel as part of an interfaith delegation, including two other Jews, a Christian and a Muslim, were also prevented from boarding the flight at the request of the Israeli government.
“We hold diverse opinions on BDS. Even though many of us have substantive differences with Rabbi Wise and other rabbinic colleagues who support the BDS movement in some or all of its forms, we believe that the decision to bar Rabbi Wise from visiting Israel is anti-democratic and desecrates our vision of a diverse Jewish community that holds multiple perspectives,” reads the letter, which had been signed by 212 rabbis as of late Wednesday morning.
“Boycotts are a legitimate nonviolent tactic that have been used both in our own country and around the world in order to create justice for marginalized and oppressed communities. Whether we support boycott is a controversy for the sake of heaven. It endures because we struggle together and debate how we can create peace, justice, and equality for Israelis and Palestinians alike,” the letter said.
The signers included Rabbi Sharon Brous, of the independent IKAR congregation in Los Angeles; Rabbi Amy Eilberg of Los Altos, California, the first women ordained by the Conservative movement; Rabbi Jill Jacobs, executive director of T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights, and Rabbi Elizabeth Bolton of Or Haneshamah, Ottawa’s Reconstructionist congregation.
In March, the Israeli Knesset amended the Law of Entry to prevent leaders of the BDS movement from being allowed into Israel. The amendment applies to organizations, as well as the leadership and senior activists of those groups, that take consistent and significant action against Israel through BDS and threaten it with material harm.
JVP said at the time of the incident that it was the first time the amendment had been enforced before passengers boarded their flights to Israel and the first time that Israel has denied entry to Jews, including a rabbi, for their support of BDS.
An anti-BDS bill making its way through the U.S. Congress would expand existing law that bans boycotts imposed by foreign governments to include those imposed by international organizations like the European Union and the United Nations.