(By Rick Jones, Presbyterian News Service). The moderator of the 216th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA) was among five interfaith leaders denied access to a passenger jet headed for Israel this week. Rick Ufford-Chase was part of an interfaith delegation of 23 Muslims, Jews and Christians boarding a Lufthansa Airlines jet at Washington Dulles International Airport that was bound for Israel on Sunday.
“All five of us are well-known for our commitment to nonviolent direct action on behalf of Palestinians living under the grinding daily reality of military occupation in Gaza and the West Bank,” Ufford-Chase said. “We suspect that we were the first to feel the impact of the Knesset’s recent declaration that they will deny entry for anyone who has supported nonviolent strategies to force Israel to end the occupation.”
Earlier this year, the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, made changes to the Law of Entry preventing leaders from the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement from being allowed in the country. Israeli officials have said the entry ban is strictly for those who are involved with significant, ongoing actions to promote and advance a boycott in Israel.
The five who were barred were from the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship, Jewish Voice for Peace and American Muslims for Palestine. Their plan was to join the larger interfaith group and visit with human rights activists in Israel and the West Bank.
“This was a delegation of humanitarian-rights advocates who are committed to work together with partners in the Middle East to bring an end to the lunacy of this seemingly never-ending conflict,” Ufford-Chase said. “In a week when violence has broken out once again in Jerusalem, it seems the height of irony that peace activists would be denied the ability to travel there at this moment in time.”
Ufford-Chase said Israel delegated responsibility for denying their entry to Lufthansa Airlines with “no explanation, no documentation of the request from Israeli authorities.”
Related article: Presbyterian Official Denied Israel Entry amidst Divestment Tension, by Jeffrey Walton, Juicy Ecumenism