Israel Set to Deport Palestinian BDS Founder Omar Barghouti
Boycott Divestment Sanctions Hurts Israel
Once again, Israel is after Omar Barghouti, the Palestinian founder of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign, and winner of the 2017 Mahatma Gandhi Peace Award.
Barghouti was born to an exiled Palestinian family in Qatar, before living in Egypt and the USA. For the past 26 years he has lived in Israel, where he is a permanent resident, having married an Israeli-Palestinian woman (i.e. a Palestinian whose ancestors were not forced out, in 1948, of the land that later became Israel).
But now, the Israeli interior minister, Aryeh Deri, has ordered the preparation of a legal way to revoke Barghouti’s permanent residency and deport him.
Are we surprised? Hasn’t apartheid Israel done worse crimes? But still, the question remains, why is it targeting Omar, or rather the movement of which he is a co-founder.
One direct answer would be, because Omar is not born to a Jewish mother and, therefore, he is not entitled to get the citizenship of the country where he has been living since 1993 with his Israeli-Palestinian wife in the city of Acre. The new Jewish Nation-State Basic
Law clearly defines Israel as the state of Jews only. To be willing to recognize and accept the exclusionary and racist-theocratic nature of the State is the precondition for being welcomed in Israel. There is no Israeli nationality, only a Jewish national character and not an Israeli one, which effectively excludes all Palestinians and "non-Jews" living in Israel from citizenship and statehood.
This, as noted by the UN Committee on Social, Economic, and Cultural Rights, "encourages discrimination and accords second class status to [Israel's] non-Jewish citizens."
And the international community has done absolutely nothing about it. Last century, the same international community considered apartheid a crime against humanity, and decided to boycott the apartheid regime of white South Africa until it complied with international law and basic human rights. Not so in the Palestinian case!
Omar’s difficulties have started in April 2017 when Israeli forces kidnapped him to prevent him from travelling to the US to receive the prestigious Gandhi Peace Award. They held him in custody and strenuously interrogated him, based on false, trumped-up charges after decrying Barghouti’s political work – the year before, Interior Minister Aryeh Dery told an Israeli newspaper that he wanted to revoke Barghouti’s Israeli residency for political reasons, claiming that Barghouti was “given rights similar to those of a citizen and he took advantage of our enlightened state to portray us as the most horrible state in the world”.
This attack on Omar Barghouti is part of Israel’s all-out legal, intelligence and propaganda war (Hasbara) on the BDS movement which has intensified since 2016. The Hasbara is a reaction to its increasing success which has seen Israeli ships being prevented from docking at ports across the world, and hundreds of artists and musicians, including the likes of Elvis Costello, the Pixies and Roger Waters, Lord, Carlos Santana, refusing to perform in Israel.
Prominent South Africans activists such as Ahmed Kathrada, Archbishop Tutu and Ronnie Kasrils have aligned themselves with the BDS movement and declared Israeli apartheid to be “far worse” than that endured by black South Africans.
BDS is a global movement with global supporters with a focus on eliminating oppression and injustice in Palestine, but with an address that goes far beyond Palestine and out of the reach of Israel’s usual barbaric tool of war-crimes and crimes against humanity as the latest attacks on Gaza prove.
It is a well-known fact by now that the BDS movement defends basic Palestinian human rights. Its slogans - freedom, equality and justice - pose a very serious threat to the racist foundation of Israel as “the state of the Jews”. Put differently, to call for equality and return of the Palestinian refugees who were ethnically cleansed in 1948, in accordance with UN resolution 194, questions the very definition of the state of Israel. And this, according to a 2017 U.N. Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) report, is that “Israel has established an apartheid regime that dominates the Palestinian people as a whole”.
It is very obvious that the ruling Zionist establishment is fed up with the rising tsunami of the BDS movement. In 2016, the BDS movement was declared a “strategic” –if not an existential—threat to the Zionist project in the Middle east! Hence the extremist measures taken by the government and laws passed by the Israeli parliament, the Knesset to fight BDS. One of those measures was “civil targeted killing” of BDS activists and the other was a banning order against all foreign BDS activists and supporters who may now not enter Israel or Palestine.
The mechanism to redress the dispossession of the Palestinian people is not via a Bantustan a la apartheid South Africa as agreed to by the signatories of the Oslo Accords, but a secular democratic state where all citizens are treated equally regardless of their religion, sex or color, is the only just and equitable solution that will end Israeli apartheid.
This is what Barghouti has been calling for. Barghouti is unable to simply return to occupied Palestine – the West Bank or Gaza Strip – if he is deported from Israel, because Israel controls the citizenship of occupied Palestine too. He will be forced into an unjust exile, away from his family.
The steadfastness of the BDS movement and its unwavering commitment to justice for all Palestinians is the real reason behind the false campaign against Barghouti; and this is why the BDS movement must intensify its work, so that Israel is forced to comply with international law. Apartheid in South Africa came to an end when the international community lived up to its responsibility. Now is the time to do the same for justice in Palestine.