The Trump administration decided last week to block Omar Barghouti, co-founder of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, from entering the United States. While Barghouti reportedly had all the proper travel documents and presumably holds a valid visa until 2021, he was not permitted to board a plane from Ben Gurion Airport to the U.S. because of an “immigration matter.” U.S. immigration law allows an individual to be denied entry who is a representative of “a political, social, or other group that endorses or espouses terrorist activity” or who “endorses or espouses terrorist activity or persuades others to endorse or espouse terrorist activity.” Barghouti appears to fall into this category of ineligibility for admission to the U.S. In 2010, for example, Barghouti stated that “in the BDS movement we don’t say we’re against violent resistance." On July 3, 2011, speaking at a socialism conference in Chicago, he said “we’re not ashamed to have armed resistance as well as peaceful resistance." BDS has ties to Palestinian terrorist organizations through the membership in the Palestinian BDS National Committee (BNC) of the “Council of National and Islamic Forces in Palestine,” which includes Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.
On July 5, 2017, the official Hamas English Twitter account tweeted: “We salute and support the influential BDS Movement.” Later that same year, the Tablet reported, “the BNC’s website, BDSMovement.net, began allowing American supporters to make tax-deductible donations to the group.” There is no accountability as to how Americans’ donations to the BDS National Committee are being spent. It is reasonable to suspect that at least some of the donated money could find its way to the terrorist-affiliated Council of National and Islamic Forces in Palestine that is both a member of the BNC and includes Hamas as one of its own members. How do we know whether Barghouti was planning to do some fund-raising had he been allowed into the United States?
Barghouti claims that BDS stands for “freedom, justice and equality." The BDS movement stands for precisely the opposite. It is a hate movement propagandizing against the very idea of Jewish self-determination in any part of Jews’ historical homeland. The BDS movement, with Barghouti serving as one of its most visible spokespersons, perpetuates the blood libel promulgated by Palestinian haters and their supporters that Israel is a so-called “apartheid state” that is allegedly committing “genocide” on the Palestinian people.
Barghouti uses BDS to delegitimize, demonize and discriminate against Israel and its Jewish inhabitants based on their nationality and religion. Only Israel is attacked for its allegedly “illegal” settlements. Turkey illegally occupied Northern Cyprus in 1974. There are currently about 115,000 Turkish settlers and 35,000 Turkish occupation troops in Northern Cyprus, according to the internationally recognized government of the Republic of Cyprus. Yet there is no concerted call to boycott Turkish businesses. To single out the Jewish state for economic punishment through boycotts because of its settlement activities, when the same standard is not applied to other countries with settlements in “occupied” territories, is blatant discrimination.
Moreover, Barghouti has gone far beyond the issue of settlements in disputed territories. He has called into question the very existence of Israel as a Jewish state within any boundaries. “A Jewish state in Palestine in any shape or form cannot but contravene the basic rights of the indigenous Palestinian population and perpetuate a system of racial discrimination that ought to be opposed categorically,” Barghouti declared. “Definitely, most definitely we oppose a Jewish state in any part of Palestine. No Palestinian, rational Palestinian, not a sell-out Palestinian, will ever accept a Jewish state in Palestine.” On another occasion, he said that “...a return for refugees would end Israel’s existence as a Jewish state. The right of return is a basic right that cannot be given away; it’s inalienable."
Barghouti often speaks of the BDS movement as heir to the 20th century boycott of South Africa by the Anti-Apartheid Movement. The only problem is that Israel is not an apartheid state. It is anything but. While Israel has a Jewish majority, it is also a racially, religiously and ethnically diverse society and a pluralistic democratic republic. Israel withdrew unilaterally from Gaza in 2005 and uprooted all Jewish settlers there, only to see Gaza turned into a launching pad for Palestinian terrorists to use in attacking Israeli civilians inside Israel. Barghouti embraces what he calls “armed” resistance. The BDS National Committee, with Barghouti serving as a member of its secretariat, includes terrorist organizations within its ranks.
The ACLU, not surprisingly, rose to Barghouti’s defense in condemning the Trump administration’s decision to bar him from entry into the United States. "This looks like an ideological exclusion, which is a long-discredited form of government censorship that prevents Americans from meeting with and hearing from a speaker whose views the government dislikes,” said Hina Shamsi, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s National Security Project. “If the Trump administration is using this political censorship tool again, it’s a disgrace and a violation of Americans' First Amendment rights. The Trump administration should not decide which ideas Americans can and cannot hear directly from speakers."
The Trump administration is not deciding what ideas Americans can and cannot hear. Barring Barghouti from personally entering the country did not prevent Barghouti from giving his speech to his American audience, and answering questions as planned, thanks to the marvels of communications technology. He had the opportunity to dispense his typical diatribes and twisted falsehoods undeterred, and Americans willing to listen to his propaganda had the opportunity to hear it. “No rational Palestinian would ever accept a Jewish state in Palestine,” he declared, repeating his tired old refrain. While being free to deliver his speech to his American audience, he complained about “suppressing free speech on Palestine” through the enactment of anti-BDS legislation.
Anti-BDS legislation would not prevent individuals from declining to purchase Israeli products for their own personal use or speaking out strongly against Israeli policies. It would cover only individuals or entities acting in an official commercial capacity. It would simply make it costlier for businesses to discriminate on the basis of national origin and religion by refusing to deal commercially with persons who have engaged in business within Israel or Israeli-controlled territories. In any event, if Barghouti is so concerned about free speech, his time would be better served promoting such rights within the territories under Palestinian control where they are non-existent. Critics of Palestinian government authorities have faced arbitrary arrests, threats, and physical abuse.
Omar Barghouti wants everyone to blackball Israel. Turnabout is fair play. Hooray for the Trump administration’s decision to blackball this anti-Semitic hatemonger who sits on the same BDS National Committee as do representatives of terrorist organizations.