Demand Israel stop its oppression of Omar Barghouti

Omar Barghouti, the Palestinian co-founder of the BDS movement

Asa Winstanley

Middle East Monitor  /  November 22, 2019

For the last decade and more, Omar Barghouti has been one of the world’s most important Palestinian public intellectuals.

A co-founder of the BDS movement for boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel, Barghouti has been instrumental in spreading the word about the movement.

His clear-sighted, logical and humanistic arguments for BDS have made him a leading voice on the international stage.

He pushes for BDS as the primary method through which ordinary citizens around the world can express practical solidarity with the Palestinian people. His compelling arguments have been an absolutely essential component in the rise of the global solidarity movement for justice in Palestine over the last two decades.

The Palestinian BDS movement’s 2005 call to boycott Israel gave an unambiguous set of principles for the global movement to work from. It also set out a collection of achievable and concrete aims.

Rather than boycott as the vague idea that the concept had too often been in the past (almost a personalised purity test), BDS set a specific set of goals. This has meant that BDS has gone from strength to strength, winning notable victories over strategic Israeli, and Israeli-occupation-complicit corporate targets, such as AhavaG4S and Sodastream.

The BDS Call document made clear the three aims of the movement. In a nutshell, it demands freedom, equality and justice for the Palestinian people.

This means an end to Israel’s military occupation of all Arab lands; full equality for everyone living between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea, by ending Israel’s dozens of discriminatory laws against Palestinians; and implementing the Palestinian refugees’ right of return to their homeland, as stipulated by UN General Assembly Resolution 194.

It’s no surprise to find then, that a Palestinian resistance leader like Barghouti is being targeted by the Israeli occupation regime in reprisal and punishment for his work advocating for human rights – especially over the last couple of years.

He has been demonised and targeted by Israel with what have effectively been travel bans, had visas to Israel-allied countries (including the UK) denied in frankly suspicious circumstances and been arrested and attacked with fabricated charges in revenge for his work.

Israel’s latest declaration of intent against Barghouti has been that it is about to deport him from occupied Palestine altogether, for a supposed “breach of allegiance” to Israel. This claim is hard to take seriously – Palestinians have no duty of allegiance to the violently racist occupying state that has systematically expelled them from their homeland, and deprived them of the most basic freedoms for more than 70 years.

Last month, Israel’s interior minister Aryeh Deri declared that he now planned “to act quickly” to revoke Barghouti’s residency rights in Israel. Let’s consider for a moment the meaning of that.

Barghouti is a Palestinian refugee who grew up in exile, outside of historic Palestine. But in the early nineties, he married a Palestinian citizen of Israel, and successfully applied for “family unification”, granting him residency rights in Acre, where he currently lives with his family.

But as a Palestinian, under Israel’s apartheid regime, he was not granted citizenship.

A Jewish person who had married a Jewish citizen of Israel would have automatically been given citizenship of Israel. But a Palestinian marrying a Palestinian citizen of Israel, is not given the same right – that is the very definition of apartheid.

But now, Israel wants to remove even that precarious status as a “resident” in his own homeland. This is purely and simply a punishment for him expressing his political views, and by extension is a racist attack on all Palestinians.

Palestinian human rights group Al Haq has condemned Israel’s threat to expel Barghouti, saying it “amounts to a clear assault on his right to freedom of expression, including his work as a human rights defender and his calls for accountability for Israel’s widespread and systematic human rights violations against the Palestinian people.”

This is part of a broader pattern of punitive residency revocation against Palestinians in Israel which, Al Haq states, “stands in clear violation of international human rights standards and treaties, which Israel is bound to respect, protect, and fulfil towards the Palestinian people, in particular the right to freedom of expression and to freedom of movement and residence, including to leave one’s country and to return.”

Israel continues to be guilty of the “serious crime of population transfer of the Palestinian people under international law”, the human rights group notes.

Why are western leaders silent? Israel must end its oppression against Omar Barghouti now!

Asa Winstanley is an investigative journalist living in London who writes about Palestine and the Middle East