BDS Leader Accuses Israel of Imposing Travel Ban

YERUSHALAYIM (AP) -

A leader of the international boycott movement against Israel, who lives in Israel, accused authorities of imposing a travel ban on him as retribution for his political activities.

Omar Barghouti is a founder of the international BDS movement, which calls for boycotts, divestment and sanctions against Israel.

In late March, Interior Minister Rabbi Deri was quoted as telling a conference that he was considering revoking Barghouti’s residency. In a possible first step, Barghouti said Tuesday that in April Israel informed him it would not be renewing a permit which allows him to travel abroad. As a permanent resident of Israel, he does not hold a passport and instead requires special permission to travel in and out of the country.

Barghouti, a Qatari-born Palestinian, said he has lived in Israel legally since 1994 and never before had a problem renewing his travel permit. He said he does so every two years. “Refusing to renew my travel document now is therefore clearly political,” he said in an email. “It does not just deny me my freedom of movement. It is seen by legal experts as a first step toward revoking my permanent residency, a clearly political and vindictive measure that has no legal basis.”

BDS supporters say the movement is using nonviolent means to end Israeli occupation, and report that it has made gains in recent years. U.S. and British academic unions have endorsed boycotts, student governments at universities have made divestment proposals, and a number of churches have sold off shares in businesses seen as profiting from Israeli communities in the Yehudah and Shomron. The BDS movement also claims responsibility for pressuring some large companies to stop or modify operations in Israel.

Israel says the movement’s true goal is to destroy the country. BDS pushes, among other things, for a return of Palestinian refugees to family properties lost in the 1948 war. Israel says a Palestinian “right of return” would lead to a massive influx of refugees and mean the end of the country as a Jewish state. Israeli officials have identified the BDS movement as a major threat.

The Interior Ministry said Tuesday that there is evidence that Barghouti’s “center of life” is in the PA region, not Israel, and his residency is under review by the attorney general. Barghouti denied the allegation, saying he spends most of his time with his family in the northern Israeli city of Acre.

“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,” Rabbi Deri was quoted as saying. “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 Justice Ministry confirmed that it was reviewing the case at the request of Rabbi Deri. It did not say when the review would be completed.