Another effort to silence Omar Barghouti

March 24, 2017

Investigators from Israel Tax Authorities arrested Omar Barghouti on March 19 on suspicion of tax evasion. According to the website of the Palestinian BDS National Committee (BNC), Barghouti and his wife were detained and interrogated for 16 hours the first day they were investigated, and Omar subsequently endured three more days of interrogation. Barghouti was eventually released on bail, but his passport has been seized.

Barghouti has been an activist for decades, first joining the struggle for justice during the international movement to boycott apartheid South Africa in the 1980s. Today, he's one of the leading voices in the global boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement. For years, Israel has tried to silence Barghouti--imposing travel bans, threatening to revoke his permanent residency status in Israel, and suggesting that he might be assassinated--all because he is a co-founder of a nonviolent movement for Palestinian rights.

In 2011, Haymarket Books published Barghouti's Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions: The Global Struggle for Palestinian Rights, which quickly established itself as the English-language manifesto of the burgeoning new movement to assert Palestinian rights through nonviolent boycotts and other pressure tactics. Below is the BNC's statement of March 22 about the latest chapter in Israel's campaign to silence Barghouti.

A PROMINENT Palestinian human rights defender and co-founder of the BDS movement, Omar Barghouti has for years been subjected to intense threats, intimidation and repression by various arms of the far-right Israeli government, particularly after it considered the movement a "strategic threat" to its entire system of injustice against Palestinians.

At a March 2016 conference in occupied Jerusalem, several Israeli government ministers threatened Omar and key BDS human rights defenders with severe measures, including "targeted civil elimination" – a euphemism for civil assassination. The Ministry of Strategic Affairs last year established a "tarnishing unit," as exposed in the Israeli daily Haaretz. This unit's job is to tarnish the reputation of BDS human rights defenders and networks.

It is in this context that the Israeli tax department's investigation of Omar and his wife, Safa, must be understood. After failing to intimidate them through the threat of revoking Omar's permanent residence in Israel, and after the effective travel ban imposed on him proved futile in stopping his human rights work, the Israeli government has resorted to fabricating a case related to Omar's alleged income outside of Israel to tarnish his image and intimidate him.

Omar Barghouti
Omar Barghouti (Kevin Van den Panhuyzen | BDS Campaign Brussels)

The fact that this investigation includes a travel ban and that it comes a few weeks before Omar Barghouti is scheduled to travel to the U.S. to receive the Gandhi Peace Award jointly with Ralph Nader in a ceremony at Yale University proves its true motive-repression.

The fact that the Israeli government publicized the inflammatory fabrications against Omar just 24 hours after he was taken in for investigation shows beyond doubt that the investigation's real goal is to tarnish his reputation.

No matter what extreme measures of repression Israel wields against the BDS movement or its human rights defenders and vast network of supporters, it cannot stop this movement for human rights. Bullying and repression can hardly affect a grassroots movement that grows in people's hearts and minds, empowering them to do the right thing--to stand on the right side of history, against Israel's fanatic regime of apartheid, occupation and ethnic cleansing, and for freedom, justice and equality for the Palestinian people.

This latest desperate chapter of repression and intimidation by the Israeli government against Omar Barghouti is the strongest indicator yet of the failure of the Israeli regime of occupation, settler-colonialism and apartheid to slow down the impressive growth of the BDS movement for Palestinian rights.

First published by the Palestinian BDS National Committee.

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