Tuesday, November 24, 2020

US revokes visa of BDS co-founder

By J.J. Rhies - April 15, 2019
Section: [Main News]
Tags: [BDS]


Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) co-founder Omar Barghouti was barred from boarding a United States-bound flight from Ben Gurion on April 10.


The global BDS movement, which was established in 2005 by more than 170 Palestinian civil and political organisations, calls on Israel to end its occupation of Palestine.


Barghouti was embarking on a US speaking tour, which included events at Harvard University and New York University’s New York and Washington, DC campuses. Additionally, he was slated to meet with policymakers and journalists.


After his tour, he was planning to attend the wedding of his daughter, who lives in the US.


Ben Gurion airport staff were informed by the US Citizenship and Immigration Service that Barghouti could not travel to the US due to an “immigration matter.”


“They just said it’s a ban by the US immigration service, nothing beyond that,” Barghouti told Al Jazeera.


He held valid travel documents at the time, including a US visa that expires in 2021.


James Zogby, president of the Arab American Institute, which was coordinating Barghouti’s trip, said, “the denial of entry into the US is the latest example of the Trump administration’s disregard for those rights.”


“Omar Barghouti is a leading Palestinian voice on human rights,” Zogby added.


In a statement on the BDS website, Barghouti said the ban was both a continuation of the “decades-old” occupation and a sign of increasing global targeting of pro-BDS and pro-Palestine activists.


“This US entry ban against me, which is ideologically and politically motivated, is part of Israel’s escalating repression against Palestinian, Israeli and international human rights defenders in the BDS movement for freedom, justice and equality,” he said.


Israel, he added, “is increasingly outsourcing its outrageous, McCarthyite repression to the US and to xenophobic, far-right cohorts across the world.”


US Department of State spokesperson Robert Palladino told journalists that the US does not revoke visas for political views that would be lawful in the US, “no matter how distasteful or objectionable” they may be.


Some US legislators seek to criminalise BDS


According to Palestine Legal, a US-based legal organisation supporting the right of Americans to support Palestine, 27 US states have enacted anti-BDS laws and an additional 14 have introduced such legislation.  


In February the US Senate passed the Combating BDS Act of 2019, which would allow state and local governments to sever ties with Americans who support BDS. In order for the bill to become law, it must pass in the House of Representatives, which seems unlikely.


Senator Jim Risch, an Idaho Republican, said the bill “is designed to see that the BDS activity is tamped down and that it is not appropriate to use against our friend, Israel.”


The bill prompted sharp criticism from liberals and conservatives alike, who said it violates citizens’ First Amendment right to free speech.


Senator Rand Paul, a Kentucky Republican, said the bill contradicted a fundamental principle of the US.


“There is likely nothing more American than to protest, to dissent and to boycott ... The sad thing today is that we will be debating whether or not to place limitations on the First Amendment right to boycott, and we will do it because the vast majority of this body disagrees with the concept of what the people are boycotting over,” he said.

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