Israel drops its mask – BDS grows
Israel has imposed an effective travel ban on Omar Barghouti, one of the founders of the Palestinian movement for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS).
This follows explicit threats made against him by Israeli government ministers.
Israel has officially refused to renew Barghouti’s travel document, a move that the Palestinian BDS National Committee (BNC) said “amounts to a travel ban and is an escalation of its attacks on Palestinian human rights defenders who nonviolently advocate for Palestinian rights under international law.”
Sarah Leah Whitson, executive director of Human Rights Watch’s Middle East and North Africa division, told The Electronic Intifada that:
Israel’s refusal to renew Barghouti’s travel document appears to be an effort to punish him for exercising his right to engage in peaceful, political activism, using its arsenal of bureaucratic control over Palestinian lives.
Sadly, Israel has used this sort of control to arbitrarily ban many Palestinians from traveling, as well as to ban international human rights monitors, journalists and activists from entering Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories”
In a press release on Tuesday, the BNC said that Barghouti, who lives in Akka, in the north of present-day Israel, “has Israeli permanent residency and requires an Israeli travel document to be able to travel in and out of Palestine/Israel.”
The BNC warned that:
Israel’s decision not to grant a renewal of the travel document on baseless bureaucratic pretenses is being viewed by human rights experts as the first step towards revoking Barghouti’s permanent residency.
Barghouti’s immediate reaction was: “I am unnerved but certainly undeterred by these threats. Nothing will stop me from struggling for my people’s freedom, justice and peace.”
“Having failed to stop the growth of BDS in the mainstream, Israel is now launching a desperate and dangerous global war of repression on the movement,” BNC general coordinator Mahmoud Nawajaa said.
“After losing many battles for the hearts and minds at the grassroots level, Israel and its well-oiled lobby groups are pressuring Western states to implement patently anti-democratic measures that threaten civil liberties at large,” Nawajaa added, in reference to a raft of anti-BDS legislation in the US and several European states.
“By banning our colleague Omar Barghouti from travelling and threatening him with physical violence, Israel is showing the lengths it will go to in order to stop the spread of the nonviolent BDS movement for Palestinian freedom, justice and equality,” Nawajaa said.
The Israeli move follows threats made against Barghouti and other Palestinian human rights defenders by top Israeli government ministers in March.
Interior minister Aryeh Deri had explicitly threatened to revoke Barghouti’s residency on the grounds that “he is using his resident status to travel all over the world in order to operate against Israel in the most serious manner.”
Israeli intelligence minister Yisrael Katz called for a campaign of “targeted civil eliminations” of BDS leaders with the help of Israeli intelligence. The Hebrew term Katz used was similar to the Israeli term for “targeted assassinations.”
And Gilad Erdan, the Israeli minister in charge of combatting BDS, also said that activists including Barghouti should “pay the price” for their work.
At the time, Amnesty International strongly condemned these threats, warning that “an escalation of acts of intimidation by the government and attacks and threats by settlers and other non-state actors have created an increasingly dangerous environment” for human rights defenders in Israel and the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip.
The group expressed particular concern for the “safety and liberty of Palestinian human rights defender Omar Barghouti, and other boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) activists, following calls alluding to threats, including of physical harm and deprivation of basic rights, made by Israeli ministers.”
EU representatives, by contrast, refused to condemn the Israeli threats, sending Israel a tacit signal that it could proceed with its repression campaign.
Refusal of travel document and possible revocation of permanent resident status (link works despite line through)
By Front Line Defenders
May 16, 2016
On 10 May 2016, human rights defender Mr Omar Barghouti received confirmation of the official refusal by Israeli authorities to renew his travel document. The human rights defender has been informed that the refusal to renew the travel document is a first step in the eventual revocation of his permanent resident status.
Download the Urgent Appeal (PDF)
Omar Barghouti is a Palestinian human rights defender and co-founder of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS), an international movement founded in 2005, which has pioneered a non-violent mobilisation against Israel’s occupation of Palestine through exerting social, economic and political pressure on the State. BDS seeks to hold Israel accountable for human rights abuses and other violations of international law, defends the “right of return” of Palestinian refugees to family properties lost in the 1948 war and engages in advocacy and nonviolent campaigning for Palestinian rights. The movement has repeatedly criticised Israel for attempting to silence Palestinian human rights defenders.
Omar Barghouti has been living in Acre, Israel with his family since 1994, when he was granted permanent residency. His Israeli travel document allows him to travel back and forth to Palestine to carry out his advocacy work related to the promotion of Palestinian rights. The permit must be renewed every two years, and was renewed regularly without any difficulty.
On 10 May 2016, Omar Barghouti received official confirmation that renewal of his travel document and re-entry permit had been refused by Israeli authorities. In April 2016, he was informed by Israel’s Interior Ministry, who has responsibility for immigration, that his resident status was under review by the Attorney General. Officials have stated that the revocation of his resident permit is related to his work and international travel advocating “for the boycott of Israel”. Without a travel document, Omar Barghouti will be unable to freely travel to and from Palestine; should the resident’s permit also be withdrawn, he will be unable to reside in Israel, where he has been living with his family for 22 years.
Prior to this incident, Omar Barghouti was prevented by Israeli authorities from travelling abroad on several occasions including to two conferences held by BDS in California, on nonviolent and strategic action against human rights violations.
Front Line Defenders expresses strong concern about the refusal to renew the travel document of human rights defender Omar Barghouti, the possible revocation of his permanent resident status and the repeated acts of intimidation against him, which it believes to be directly motivated by their peaceful and legitimate human rights activities.
Front Line Defenders urges the authorities in Israel to:
1. Renew the travel document of human rights defender Omar Barghouti and ensure that his permanent residence status is not withdrawn;
2. Guarantee in all circumstances that all human rights defenders in Israel are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals and free of all restrictions.
Interview With BDS Co-Founder Omar Barghouti: Banned by Israel From Traveling, Threatened With Worse
Interview by Glenn Greenwald, The Intercept
May 13, 2016
DESPITE HAVING LIVED in Israel for 22 years with no criminal record of any kind, Omar Barghouti was this week denied the right to travel outside the country. As one of the pioneers of the increasingly powerful movement to impose boycotts, sanctions, and divestment measures (BDS) on Israel, Barghouti, an articulate, English-speaking activist, has frequently travelled around the world advocating his position. The Israeli government’s refusal to allow him to travel is obviously intended to suppress his speech and activism. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was one of the world leaders who travelled last year to Paris to participate in that city’s “free speech rally.”
As the husband of a Palestinian citizen of Israel, Barghouti holds a visa of permanent residency in the country, but nonetheless needs official permission to travel outside of Israel, a travel document that — until last week — had been renewed every two years. Haaretz this week reported that beyond the travel ban, Barghouti’s “residency rights in Israel are currently being reconsidered.”
The travel denial came after months of disturbing public threats directed at him by an Israeli government that has grown both more extreme and more fearful of BDS’s growing international popularity. In March, Israel’s interior minister, Aryeh Deri, threatened to revoke Barghouti’s residency rights, explicitly admitting that this was in retaliation for his speech and advocacy: “He is using his resident status to travel all over the world in order to operate against Israel in the most serious manner. … He took advantage of our enlightened state to portray us as the most horrible state in the world.”
Sarah Leah Whitson of Human Rights Watch told the Electronic Intifada that “Israel’s refusal to renew Barghouti’s travel document appears to be an effort to punish him for exercising his right to engage in peaceful, political activism, using its arsenal of bureaucratic control over Palestinian lives.” She added: “Israel has used this sort of control to arbitrarily ban many Palestinians from traveling, as well as to ban international human rights monitors, journalists, and activists from entering Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories.”
But the threats to Barghouti from the Israeli government extend far beyond his right to travel. Last month, Amnesty International issued an extraordinary warning that the group “is concerned for the safety and liberty” of Barghouti, citing threats from Israel’s minister of transport, intelligence, and atomic energy, Yisrael Katz, who called on Israel to engage in “targeted civil eliminations” of BDS leaders with the help of Israeli intelligence. As Amnesty noted,
The term alludes to ‘targeted assassinations’ which is used to describe Israel’s policy of targeting members of Palestinian armed groups.
As The Intercept has regularly reported over the last year, the attempts to criminalize BDS activism — not only in Israel but internationally — are one of the greatest threats to free speech and assembly rights in the West. The threat has become particularly acute on U.S. college campuses, where official punishments for pro-Palestinian students are now routine. But obviously, the threats faced by Barghouti inside Israel are far more severe.
Protesters in Toronto. Photo from Canadian Jewish News.
Regardless of one’s views on BDS and the Israeli occupation, anyone who purports to believe in basic conceptions of free speech rights should be appalled by Israeli behaviour. I spoke with Barghouti yesterday about this latest Israeli attack on his core civil liberties, the growing extremism in Israel, and broader trends with free speech and BDS activism. “I am unnerved,” he told me, “but I’m certainly undeterred.”
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