Israeli boycott activist seeks asylum in Canada
Jillian Kestler-D’Amours, al-Jazeera, Sep 9 2016
TORONTO, Canada – An Israeli man has applied for asylum in Canada, citing fears of political persecution for supporting the growing movement for BDS against Israel. But BDS activists in Israel and Palestine say they had no prior knowledge of Gilad Paz’s involvement with the BDS movement before news reports surfaced about his asylum claim. Boycott From Within, an activist group made up of Israeli citizens who support BDS, told al-Jazeera:
We do not know Paz beyond what we’ve read in the media.
Paz, an Israeli labour lawyer, landed in Montreal on Aug 11 and applied for asylum on the basis of political persecution, according to multiple media reports. Paz told Yediot Ahronot:
I am politically persecuted in Israel. I realised that people like me have no place in the country, so I decided to leave before it’s too late.
After repeated interview requests, Paz told al-Jazeera that on his lawyer’s advice he was no longer speaking to the media. His hearing with Canadian immigration officials is scheduled for Sep 29, he said. Paz told EI in late August that he has conducted most of his activism online. On his Facebook page, Paz has shared numerous posts in support of BDS and critical of Israel’s policies towards Palestinians. Paz told EI he had not yet faced any personal consequences for supporting BDS, but feared a backlash after increasingly hostile, anti-BDS rhetoric from Israeli politicians. Boycott from Within contends that Palestinians are the main target for Israeli government repression. Israel has already passed a law banning calls for BDS. Paz told EI:
I made the decision after the speech of Gilad Erdan. I concluded that I am not going to have any choice.
Ofer Neiman, an Israeli activist who supports BDS, told al-Jazeera that Jewish-Israeli dissidents are also increasingly under pressure, facing death threats, assaults and difficulty keeping jobs. He said:
The rhetoric is becoming more heated. We also know for a fact that Israel is investing in political, financial and legal means to counter BDS, especially in North America. The Israeli government views the BDS movement as a threat to the country’s legitimacy and image abroad. Israel has always depended on strong international support to carry out its violations of Palestinian human rights, and BDS is now emerging as a significant threat to this nefarious status quo.