Interior Minister Rabbi Aryeh Deri said on Monday that he is considering cancellation of the residency of Omar Barghouti, the founder of the BDS movement, Ynet reported.
Rabbi Deri told a conference in Yerushalayim on countering the boycott campaign against Israel that Barghouti has been found exploiting Israel’s humane policies to defame it all over the world.
Barghouti, he said, was born in Qatar and received resident status in 1994 after marrying an Israeli woman from Acre and claiming his life is in Israel.
“And now it turns out it’s not true,” Rabbi Deri told the conference. “I was given information that his life is in Ramallah and he is using his resident status to travel all over the world in order to operate against Israel in the most serious manner. “He 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.”
The decision as to whether to remove his residency status will have to be weighed carefully, though. “The revoking of citizenship or residency is a tool that is hardly ever used because it constitutes a human rights violation,” Rabbi Deri said.
The discussions highlighted a split between coalition and opposition politicians as to the causes of BDS and how to fight it.
Earlier on Monday, Opposition leader Isaac Herzog, MK Tzipi Livni and U.S. Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro argued that the breakdown of the peace process and illiberalism in Israel fueled the BDS movement.
Herzog deplored Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s sharp criticism of Sunday’s High Court ruling that the natural gas deal was unconstitutional.
“The attacks on the High Court yesterday by the prime minister and the ranks below him only serve to weaken one of the main institutions defending Israel’s good name,” Herzog said.
“Not all of those who attack us are Israeli haters. There’s a massive silent majority influenced by the winds that come from here and there. And when that silent majority hears that we have a Supreme Court, a vibrant democracy, freedom of expression and freedom to protest, and it sees the true story of our amazing country – that majority understands that the BDS movement is all nonsense. But in order to have that we must show that our democracy is strong, and has a strong and independent Supreme Court,” Herzog said.
Education Minister Naftali Bennett dismissed such arguments as irrelevant. “The most severe blows we suffered were in the Goldstone Report, in the Marmara incident and in Gaza. And we did exactly what the world asked. We expelled 8,000 Jews (during the Gaza disengagement) and gave the land up to Abbas, not to Hamas. It was there that we suffered the worst international blows and no one came to our defense when we were fighting to protect ourselves, we just got reports,” he said.
Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz (Likud) characterized BDS as “an organization whose goal is to undermine the existence of the state of Israel. This isn’t about criticism of Israeli policy, which is a legitimate thing that we know how to deal with. They have a clear objective to destroy,” Katz said.
On a less polemic note, Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked outlined recent legal steps taken by the Israeli government to combat the BDS movement.
“We hired the services of law firms abroad to examine the tools that can be used to deal with a decision like the one made by the EU to label products from Yehuda and Shomron,” Shaked said. “We take advantage of local legislation to fight BDS and we’re also promoting legislation in other countries.”
“We see a lot of successes recently because Israel is diplomatically active,” she added.
“When I meet with my colleagues, justice ministers from other countries, I feel that there’s great cooperation. Justice ministers around the world are great friends of Israel. They all love Israel and want to cooperate with it, especially in light of Israel’s experience in the war against terrorism,” Shaked claimed.