Knesset bars Arab MK from JVP-sponsored trip to U.S.

MK Yousef Jabareen was supposed to travel across the United States for a series of lectures on the political reality in Israel. The Knesset decided to put the kibosh on the trip — because it is sponsored by Jewish Voice for Peace.

Joint List MK Yousef Jabareen seen in the Knesset. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)
Joint List MK Yousef Jabareen seen in the Knesset. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

The Knesset has forbidden an Arab member of Knesset from traveling to the United States for a series of lectures. The reason? The trip was to be subsidized by Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), a left-wing American organization that supports pressuring Israel to end the occupation with boycotts, and appears on a government blacklist of groups that support the BDS movement.

“[The decision] is a severe blow to my political freedom as an elected official. This is activity that is a fundamental and integral part of my role as a member of the Knesset opposition,” MK Yousef Jabareen told +972 Magazine on Wednesday. “American opinion is relevant to the political reality in Israel, and it is important for me to try and have an influence there through lectures and conferences.”

The decision is the first time that the Knesset Ethics Committee has enforced a new regulation, created in January of this year, which bars Knesset Members from traveling abroad using funds of groups that appear on the blacklist. As reported in Haaretz, Ethics Committee Chairman Yitzhak Vaknin (Shas) confirmed that the committee asked the Strategic Affairs Ministry for more information on JVP.

Jabareen said he is considering filing a petition to the High Court of Justice against the decision to bar his travel, and to overturn the new Ethics Committee regulations.

Strategic Affairs Minister Gilad Erdan, who is responsible for compiling the blacklist, issued a response to the committee on March 8th, according to which JVP “is currently considered one of the leading boycott organizations in the United States, declaring its support for BDS as a nonviolent tool that will compel the State of Israel to change its policy and relinquish ‘the occupied territories.’”

Jewish Voice for Peace Executive Director Rebecca Vilkomerson issued the following response:

We are deeply disappointed that MK Yousef Jabareen won’t be able to join us in the U.S. due to the Knesset decision to effectively block his travel.  We were very much looking forward to learning from his experience as an MK and his leadership on issues of democracy and equality in Israel. This decision is sad evidence of the further deterioration of Israeli democratic standards.