World Council Of Churches Voices 'Grave Concern' Over Israel Clampdown On Boycott Support

An Israeli settlement in HebronReuters

The World Council of Churches has issued a statement describing its 'grave concern' over a new law passed in Israel this week.

The Israeli Parliament, the Knesset, passed the 'Entry to Israel Act (Denial of Visa to Non-Residents Who Knowingly Call for a Boycott on Israel)' on Monday.

It's aimed at activists who call for a boycott of Israeli goods in protest at the Israeli government's treatment of the occupied Palestinian territories.

WCC General Secretary Rev Dr Olav Fykse Tveit said: 'It would be a clear violation of freedom of expression, that is critical for those who want to visit Israel, for those who have to live under the occupation, and for those who want access to the Palestinian territories.'

The statement also suggests the law is a, 'significant violation of freedom of religion'. Tveit says it is 'because of our Christian principles and teachings that we in the World Council of Churches find the purchase and consumption of goods produced in Israeli settlements in the occupied territories immoral, and it is for the same reason many churches and Christians around the world choose to divest from companies that profit from the illegal occupation'.

Other critics have suggested the law is far too sweeping, in that it targets both those who call for a boycott just of Israeli settlements in the West Bank (considered illegal under international law) and those who advocate a wider boycott of Israel (a more minority position).

Israeli education minister Naftali Bennett supported the law saying it, 'allows Israel to protect itself against conspirators'.