Five members of an American interfaith delegation to Israel, including three Jews, were prevented from boarding their flight from Washington DC, reportedly because of their involvement in the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement (BDS).
The Israeli daily newspaper Haaretz reported that the Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) organisation said in a statement that the delegation tried to check into its Lufthansa flight at Dulles International Airport, only to be told that the Israeli government had ordered the airline not to let the five passengers aboard.
In March, the Israeli parliament, the Knesset, amended the law to prevent leaders of the BDS movement from being allowed into Israel. The amendment applies to organisations and their senior leaders that take consistent and significant action against Israel through BDS.
A spokesperson for Lufthansa, Tal Muscal, confirmed that the members of the delegation were not allowed to fly after a request from the Israeli authorities that reportedly did not specify the reason.
Muscal said that the airline is compelled to obey government requests like these to block passengers from boarding flights.
'We don't know who these people are,' Haaretz quoted Muscal as saying. 'We have no information as to why the Israeli government does not want them to enter. We simply have to abide by the rules and regulations of every country in which we operate.'
The office of the prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu declined to comment to Haaretz on the incident.
Three of the activists were from JVP, including a rabbi.
The other two would-be passengers were Rick Ufford Chase of the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship in Rockland County, New York, and Shakeel Syed, a national board member with American Muslims for Palestine in Los Angeles.
According to JVP, 18 other participants with the Interfaith Network for Justice in Palestine delegation arrived in Israel on Monday morning and were allowed to enter after several hours of detention and questioning.
JVP states on its website that it supports BDS against Israel.
Rabbi Alissa Wise said in the JVP statement: 'Israel denied me the ability to travel there because of my work for justice for Palestinians, even though I'm Jewish and a rabbi. I'm heartbroken and outraged. This is yet another demonstration that democracy and tolerance in Israel only extends to those who fall in line with its increasingly repressive policies against Palestinians.'
Syed said in the statement that he had his boarding pass in his hand when 'the Lufthansa representative informed me that they had a direct order from "Israeli immigration authorities" to not allow us to board the plane. Furthermore, they refused to even show us the Israeli order.'
JVP said that the case is believed to be the first in which the amendment has been enforced before passengers boarded their flights to Israel, and the first time that Israel has denied entry to Jews, including a rabbi, over their support of BDS.