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Founder of BDS movement is denied entry to the U.S. — as Congress circulates bills to curtail BDS

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On Wednesday the man regarded as the founder of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement targeting Israel (BDS), Palestinian activist Omar Barghouti, headed to the airport outside of Tel Aviv intending to embark on a U.S. speaking tour and attend the wedding of a relative. Despite possessing a valid visa through 2021, he was prevented from boarding.

According to a statement released by the Arab American Institute (AAI), the group sponsoring his talks, Barghouti was told his travel block was due to an “immigration matter.” Airline staff told him they had orders from the U.S. Consulate in Tel Aviv and U.S. immigration services not to let him on the plane.

The denial sparks questions whether legislation circling on Capital Hill to curtail boycotts against Israel has come with a shadow policy to prevent its most vocal advocates from entering the country.

Speaking over Skype to an audience in Washington DC today for a discussion moderated by the Atlantic’s Peter Beinart, Barghouti said he believes the travel ban was imposed “by Israel directly or by proxy by the United States” to “silence human rights defenders in the BDS movement” whether they are “Palestinian, Israeli, or international human rights defenders.”

He added, “They are resorting to more McCarthyite, more repressive intimidation, bullying and violation of basic rights to silence us.”

“By having U.S. immigration ban me from entering the United States, this is really a blatant attempt to silence my voice and it’s taking the opposition to BDS in this right-wing, xenophobic administration to a higher lever,” he said. 

Barghouti lived in the U.S. for more than a decade including years spent earning a masters degree in engineering from Columbia University. He has traveled back and forth previously without issues, although he was temporary prohibited from leaving Israel earlier this year after his travel document was not renewed without explanation. Barghouti lives in Israel where he is a permanent resident and therefore does not possess Israeli citizenship or a passport. After Amnesty International intervened, his travel document was reinstated earlier this year, again without explanation.

In recent years 27 states have passed laws limiting or banning boycotts against Israel for state employees and contractors. Shortly after the measures were passed, four states struck down the laws as unconstitutional. Current federal legislation would upend those reversals. In February the Senate passed the Combating BDS Act of 2019 which grants state and local governments the power to stop doing business with boycotters of “Israel or Israeli-controlled territories.” A similar version of the bill is making the rounds in the House but is unlikely to pass.

James Zogby, the head of the Arab American Institute, said before introducing Barghouti at this morning’s event that he had attempted to arrange meetings between the BDS activist and members of Congress who oppose the tactic.

“What is especially troubling is that there are numerous pieces of legislation and or resolutions denouncing BDS, and some of them calling out Mr. Barghouti by name,” Zogby said. “A person much denounced and much defamed should have the opportunity to engage in conversation.

“We wrote to all of the members of Congress who were sponsors of the legislation asking if they would want to meet. The response has been to deny him entry.”

The BDS movement is modeled on boycotts of the South African Apartheid regime as a means of pressuring an end to the system of racial discrimination. In 2005 Barghouti produced a seminal document outlining his principles for a non-violent movement that could sway Israel to make fundamental changes in how it treats Palestinians. The call was widely endorsed by Palestinian nonprofits and activists abroad. Israel has vehemently opposed the movement as an effort to “delegitimize” the state and sought to connect it to Palestinian militant groups, which are labeled as terrorist organizations by the U.S. and Israel.

In February Barghouti’s name was mentioned in a report published by Israel’s Ministry of Strategic Affairs titled, “terrorists in suits.” While no illegal actions are ascribed to Barghouti, the file describes BDS “as a complementary effort” to “armed attacks against the State of Israel.”

 

Allison Deger
About Allison Deger

Allison Deger is the Assistant Editor of Mondoweiss.net. Follow her on twitter at @allissoncd.

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23 Responses

  1. amigo
    amigo
    April 11, 2019, 6:52 pm

    Hell, they got Jerusalem, Occupied Syrian Heights ,ooops , sorry , The Golan Heights and the West bank ,ooops, Judea/Samaria so whats such a big deal about being given control over the US immigration Dept.

    I may have missed something there, but lately it is difficult to keep up with the Trump gift list.

    • Marnie
      Marnie
      April 11, 2019, 11:07 pm

      has the united states become another israeli territory? A playground for dictators, criminals against humanity and garden variety murderers, thieves, pimps and predators and they all have plenty of benjamins to grease the skids.

      Human rights are quickly disappearing in the ‘world’s greatest democracy’.

    • Egbert
      Egbert
      April 12, 2019, 3:55 am

      Sometimes the mask falls off when insiders reveal the truth.

      “He is our property and we can get the facts and the truth from him.”

      Senator Joe Manchin on the arrest of Julian Assange.

  2. Peter in SF
    Peter in SF
    April 11, 2019, 9:18 pm

    Omar Barghouti, headed to the airport outside of Tel Aviv intending to embark on a U.S. speaking tour and attend the wedding of a relative.

    They said on the FMEP discussion that it’s his own daughter who will be having a wedding in the U.S.

    Barghouti lives in Israel where he is a permanent resident and therefore does not possess Israeli citizenship or a passport.

    Doesn’t possess a passport? What does he have, a laissez-passer? I thought those have been replaced by Palestinian passports. I don’t know what citizenship(s) Barghouti has, but that certainly has relevance to being allowed to visit the U.S.

    • kylebisme
      kylebisme
      April 15, 2019, 12:46 am

      Barghouti has Jordanian citizenship, mentions as much in this interview.

      • Peter in SF
        Peter in SF
        April 18, 2019, 2:29 am

        Thanks, kylebisme. If the writer here meant that the Israeli government has taken his Jordanian passport, she should say that that’s what happened. Mondoweiss editors need to do a better job.

        In the interview you link to, Omar Barghouti says “As a Palestinian, as a refugee, a son of refugees, I have permanent residence in Israel, and I’m a citizen of Jordan.” A phrasing that makes it sound as if Palestinian refugees get to have permanent residence in Israel. I think he was trying to say that the Israeli government doesn’t allow him citizenship in Israel, but does allow him permanent residence — but even that is only because his wife is an Israeli citizen, though he doesn’t mention that. And I don’t quite understand that, either, because one of the common talking points about separate laws for Palestinians in Israel is that Palestinians who aren’t Israeli citizens but marry Israeli citizens are not allowed to live in Israel.

  3. Peter in SF
    Peter in SF
    April 11, 2019, 9:28 pm

    In recent years 27 states have passed laws limiting or banning boycotts against Israel for state employees and contractors. Shortly after the measures were passed, four states struck down the laws as unconstitutional. Current federal legislation would upend those reversals.

    This is news to me. It is clear from what follows that you are talking about proposed legislation currently before Congress, and not “current federal legislation“. But how is it possible that if Congress passes this into law, it would make the existing state anti-boycott laws constitutional? Your link says that those state laws were ruled to be unconstitutional on first-amendment grounds. I don’t understand how an act of Congress can change that.

    • Mooser
      Mooser
      April 12, 2019, 12:21 pm

      “Current federal legislation would upend those reversals.”

      “Upend them” on the basis of equal rights. The original declarations of unconstitutionality against the anti-BDS were discriminatory. On the basis of singling-out.

      • YoniFalic
        YoniFalic
        April 12, 2019, 1:34 pm

        One can read the proposed legislation at this URL.

        Here are there operative passages.

        (10) The 2010 Dear Colleague letter cautioned schools that they “must take prompt and effective steps reasonably calculated to end the harassment, eliminate any hostile environment, and its effects, and prevent the harassment from recurring,” but did not provide guidance on current manifestations of anti-Semitism, including discriminatory anti-Semitic conduct that is couched as anti-Israel or anti-Zionist.

        (11) The definition and examples referred to in paragraphs (1) and (2) of section 3 have been valuable tools to help identify contemporary manifestations of anti-Semitism, and include useful examples of discriminatory anti-Israel conduct that crosses the line into anti-Semitism.

        Here is the final section that attempts to make the legislation constitutional.

        (b) Constitutional Protections.—Nothing in this Act shall be construed to diminish or infringe upon any right protected under the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States.

        The legal logic is contorted, but the bill tries to make anything construable as anti-Israel to be a violation of civil rights legislation and specifically tries to prevent recipients of federal funds from supporting BDS. In this way college administrators can reject on-campus BDS actions by claiming that they must preserve federal funding. If a college administration wanted to fight withdrawal of federal funding, it would probably win, but college administrators are more concerned about fundraising than supporting Palestinians via BDS.

        I am not yet SCOTUS barred, but I could successfully argue that this law is unconstitutional before SCOTUS.

  4. Kay24
    Kay24
    April 12, 2019, 3:24 am

    The BDS movement should focus now on other nations, including Muslim nations, who unknowingly purchase products that are made in Israel. They should spread the message and promote awareness. For instance a couple of years ago, I saw Sodastream being sold in a department store in Singapore (not a Muslim nation, but does have a Muslim population). During Ramadan I am sure many Muslims consume dates produced in illegal settlements:

    KEY FACTS

    Israel is the world’s 3rd largest ($) exporter of dates worth $151 million in 2014.
    The UK is Israel’s 3rd largest market for dates worth $23 million in 2014 (10,000 tons).
    60% of the world’s Medjool dates are produced in Israel (2013).
    60% of Israeli dates are grown on illegal settlement plantations in the Jordan Valley (2014).

    If you buy a Medjool date, there’s a strong possibility that it is from an illegal settlement – grown on stolen land.

    BDS is hurting Israel, deservedly so, that is why they are using their influence (again Rep. Omar was right) over politicians, colleges, and other institutions, to pass laws, resolutions, and trying their utmost to stop it. Isn’t it time someone explained to them that ending the occupation, and stopping the illegal settlements might do the trick?

    • Nathan
      Nathan
      April 15, 2019, 10:14 am

      Kay24 – Perhaps it’s an issue of alternative reality or perhaps it’s just another propaganda ploy, but really I wouldn’t have a clue what it is you mean that “BDS is hurting Israel”. It was quite ironic to read that Mr Barghouti himself lives in Israel. You would think that he himself boycotts Israel, but it turns out that he doesn’t.

      The BDS movement is part of the propaganda war against Israel. It’s a tool to keep the struggle against Israel on the agenda. That’s all. In reality, the economy of Israel is booming. It should be added that the fight against BDS is also part of the propaganda war (this time in favor of Israel). Legislation against BDS is simply a way of saying “we support Israel”. That’s all.

      I would guess that your explanation “that ending the occupation, and stopping the illegal settlements might do the trick” is naive at best or misleading at worse. It’s hard for me to believe that a regular reader of Mondoweiss would think that the grievances against Israel are “occupation” and “settlements”. But, just in case you really are so naive, allow me to explain that the grievances against Israel are infinite. Any issue that might be resolved does not lessen the intensity of animosity against Israel. Moreover, no issue will ever be resolved (for example, even after withdrawing from occupied territory, the grievance of occupation is not removed from the list of grievances).

      Imagine a situation in which you detest a Mr X. You really wish that he hadn’t been born, and you pray in your heart that he would simply drop dead. No matter what Mr X does, for you it’s always unacceptable and deplorable – even if he’s really quite talented. You might even fantasize that you yourself could bring about his demise with your own hands, but alas you are incapable of such a mission. All you can do is to wage a public campaign against him, so you make your list of complaints for publication. So, what’s the problem with Mr X? You tell us that he doesn’t shave regularly, and he wears non-matching socks… The truth is quite simple. You wouldn’t dare tell the world what you have in mind regarding Mr X for fear that very few people are going to identify with your goals. So, you raise issues that some people might identify with. However, we all understand that the real issue at hand from your point of view cannot be solved.

      Let me be the first one to explain to you that every town in Israel is regarded to be “an illegal settlement in occupied Palestine”. Such a claim was made before 1967 (before the capturing of the West Bank and Gaza), and such a claim is being made today. The real meaning of “ending the occupation” and “stopping the illegal settlements” in Arabic is that Israel shouldn’t be, period. Don’t be too surprised if even a successful boycott of Israel won’t change a thing (and all the more so in an obviously unsuccessful boycott).

      • eljay
        eljay
        April 15, 2019, 11:07 am

        || Nathan: … It’s hard for me to believe that a regular reader of Mondoweiss would think that the grievances against Israel are “occupation” and “settlements”. … ||

        The grievances against Israel should be:
        – terrorism;
        – ethnic cleansing;
        – military occupation;
        – colonialism;
        – supremacism;
        – (war) crimes and human rights abuses;
        – refusal to honour obligations under international law (incl. RoR);
        – refusal to accept responsibility and accountability for past and on-going (war) crimes and human rights abuses committed.

        || … The real meaning of “ending the occupation” and “stopping the illegal settlements” in Arabic is that Israel shouldn’t be, period. … ||

        The real meaning should be:
        – ending the ethnic cleansing, military occupation, colonialism and supremacism;
        – stopping the (war) crimes and human rights abuses;
        – ending the refusal to honour obligations under international law (incl. RoR);
        – stopping the refusal to accept responsibility and accountability for past and on-going (war) crimes and human rights abuses committed.

        Regardless, Zionists consider abhorrent any call to apply justice, accountability and equality to I-P.

      • Kay24
        Kay24
        April 15, 2019, 11:19 am

        Complete EU Boycott Would Cost Israel Billions of Dollars, Finance Ministry Warns
        Study commissioned two years ago sees wide-ranging impact on Israel in the worst-case scenarios.
        https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/business/.premium-treasury-report-paints-bleak-picture-of-potential-european-boycott-1.5375652

        Here is a great article from our very own:

        “The most important information is deep inside the FT article:

        However, there are signs that Israel’s disquiet over BDS is genuine. This week an Israeli financial newspaper covered a leaked government report estimating that BDS could cost Israel’s economy $1.4bn a year. The estimate included lower exports from the settlements in keeping with the EU’s plans to begin labelling goods made there — not part of the BDS movement, although many Israelis lump the two things together. The Rand Corporation, the US think-tank, says the costs could be more than three times higher: $47bn over 10 years.”

        https://mondoweiss.net/2015/06/could-israel-billion/

        If the “only” Democracy in the Middle East had no fear of BDS, their crooked leader would NOT pour in millions of shekels to combat it, and get colleges and the US Congress to shut it down.

        “The Israeli government has approved a plan setting aside $72 million to fighting the campaign to boycott the Jewish state.

        The plan, which would entail the largest monetary investment yet by Israel specifically toward combating the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign, was announced last week to cabinet ministers and approved as an executive order after none of them objected, the Ynet news site reported Friday.” The Times of Israel.

        I would call it “hurting” and afraid. Hope that helped you get that “clue” you seem to have missed.
        If it didn’t, nothing will.

  5. Misterioso
    Misterioso
    April 12, 2019, 8:26 am

    More proof that “Israel” is America’s pimp:

    https://www.haaretz.com/us-news/bds-founder-omar-barghouti-denied-entry-to-the-united-states-1.7110679

    “U.S. Denies Entry to BDS Founder Omar Barghouti”

    “Barghouti, who was headed for a speaking tour and his daughter’s wedding, was denied before boarding a flight in Israel’s Ben Gurion Airport”

    Haaretz, April 11/19 by Noa Landau

    “The U.S. government denied entry to co-founder of the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement Omar Barghouti on Thursday.

    “Airline staff at Israel’s Ben Gurion International Airport informed Barghouti that he could not fly to the United States, despite holding valid travel documents. He was told that U.S. immigration officials ordered the American consul in Tel Aviv to deny him permission to board the flight.

    ‘Barghouti was told that it is an ‘immigration matter,’ according to a statement by the Arab American Institute, a Washington-based advocacy group. They added that Barghouti often faces travel restrictions from Israel, but not from the United States.

    “Barghouti was set to attend his daughter’s wedding, who lives in the United States. He was also set to speak at Harvard, New York University and a Philidelphia bookstore owned by Marc Lemont Hill, whose contract at CNN was terminated last year over his support for Palestinian rights.

    “Barghouti is a permanent resident of Israel. He was born in Qatar and his wife is an Arab citizen of Israel. Barghouti holds a master’s degree from Columbia University, a philosophy degree from Tel Aviv university and had lived in the United States for a decade in 1980s. In 2017, Israel arrested Barghouti on suspicion of tax evasion.

    “In February, the U.S. Senate voted to passed anti-BDS legislation encouraging states to not sign contracts with supporters of boycott of Israel.

    “The U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem said that it does not comment on individual visa cases.”

  6. YoniFalic
    YoniFalic
    April 12, 2019, 9:20 am

    The appropriate response to an accusation of “delegitimizing Israel” is an accusation of legitimizing genocide.

  7. Vera Gottlieb
    Vera Gottlieb
    April 12, 2019, 11:29 am

    Why would anyone in his/her right mind want to travel to the US?

    • YoniFalic
      YoniFalic
      April 12, 2019, 1:51 pm

      Zios are working to use civil rights arguments against Barghouti’s human rights argument.

      Barghouti could be a powerful spokesman on behalf of Palestinians in the USA, but he must modify his argument to attack legitimization of genocide. According to the modified argument he should direct

      1) correct application of the US federal statute that provides the US federal code with enablement of the International Convention for the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide against

      2) the incorrect construction of US federal statutes to protect a foreign state from criticism for perpetrating ongoing acts of genocide when said statutes properly construed are meant to protect the civil rights of Americans.

      • Mooser
        Mooser
        April 12, 2019, 4:05 pm

        “Yoni”, what I think it’s going to come down to is this: In the next US election, the Republicans will portray themselves as the pro-Israel, pro-Jewish party, and the Dems as the party of anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism.

      • YoniFalic
        YoniFalic
        April 12, 2019, 6:02 pm

        I agree.

        The Democrats must frame the Republicans as the pro-racism, pro-genocide, and pro-privilege party that views politics as a zero-sum game, in which the privileged beat the rest of the human race down according to the law of the jungle in order to maintain white privilege, while the Democrats are the party of anti-racism, anti-genocide, civil rights, and human rights as well as the party of expanding the pie in a world where law is respected

        White racist Republicans use anti-anti-Semitism as camouflage for their racism, and hyper-wealthy Zios will use Republican anti-anti-Semitism as an excuse to vote and to contribute Republican while the rest of the Jews, who are insignificant from the standpoint of numbers and of campaign contributions can choose which party to support.

      • Mooser
        Mooser
        April 13, 2019, 1:13 pm

        “must frame the Republicans as the pro-racism, pro-genocide, and pro-privilege party that views politics as a zero-sum game, in which the privileged beat the rest of the human race down according to the law of the jungle in order to maintain white privilege”

        Yup, we may see the end of the traditional Jewish-Democratic alliance. That’s the way the matzoh crumbles- into a half-baked cracker.
        As goes the Right, so goes the all-rightnik.

  8. Mustacq Abdullah
    Mustacq Abdullah
    April 13, 2019, 2:22 am

    The US Congress is long, long ago captured by Isräel! But hey, they only want Joe public to hear of the “Russian Collusion” in the mudstream media. And proof of that s is that 57 members of Congress has dual US and Isräeli citizenships.

    They don’t want you to see the truth!
    They don’t want you to hear the truth!
    They don’t want you to speak the truth!

  9. kylebisme
    kylebisme
    April 15, 2019, 1:03 am

    Sure, if it wasn’t for Israeli influence our government would leave the Middle East alone and go back to focusing more on screwing over South America and Southeast Asia like good and wholesome Americans should. And proof of that is the bare assertion that “57 members of Congress has dual US and Isräeli citizenships”, apparently counting every Jewish member of congress along with 23 members who aren’t Jewish. It’s all so clear now. /s

  10. John O
    John O
    April 16, 2019, 8:49 am

    Omar Bargouti has a powerful op-ed in today’s Guardian online. Not sure if it will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.

    https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/apr/16/bds-movement-omar-barghouti-denied-entry

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