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Israel’s plans to deport BDS co-founder a ‘dangerous escalation,’ says HRW Open in fullscreen

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Israel’s plans to deport BDS co-founder a ‘dangerous escalation,’ says HRW

Barghouti speaks at the 2014 Palestine Festival of Literature in Acre, Israel [Getty]

Date of publication: 7 October, 2019

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Israel’s recent announcement to attempt deporting boycott movement co-founder Omar Barghouti, resident in Acre for 26 years, has been slammed as a ‘dangerous escalation’ by Human Rights Watch.
Israel’s interior ministry on Sunday said it has ordered immigration officials to look into removing the residency status of Omar Barghouti, the founder of the global boycott movement BDS, in a move slammed by Human Rights Watch as a “dangerous escalation” against Palestinian rights.

Israeli Interior Minister Arye Deri said he intends to “act quickly to revoke Barghouti’s permanent resident status”, calling him “a man who is doing everything to harm the state, and therefore shouldn’t enjoy the right of being a resident of Israel.”

The Israeli government has for years waged a campaign to curtail Barghouti’s activism, since the nonviolent Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions movement has gained worldwide momentum in its attempt to raise awareness of Israel’s human rights abuses against Palestinians.

Read more: Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against Israel: What is BDS and why should you care?

Born to a Palestinian family in Qatar, Barghouti has lived in Israel for 26 years, residing in Acre, a mixed Arab-Jewish city in northern Israel.

Palestinians make up roughly one fifth of the population of the State of Israel.

In 2018, the activist was barred from travelling to Jordan to visit his critically ill mother, and the following year was denied entry to the US over his support for the boycott.

The BDS committee, comprised of over 170 Palestinian civil society organisations, unions, and cultural and rights groups - including all major political parties, trade and academic unions -  issued its official call for boycott in 2005.

Through targeted strategies, the movement aims to pressure Israel to comply with international law to achieve three aims: ending the occupation of Palestinian territories, granting full equality to Palestinian citizens of Israel, and ensuring the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes.

The Israeli government passed a law in 2017 which bans entry to anyone who has shown support for BDS.

In 2018, the government applied the law for the first time to someone legally residing inside Israel, attempting to deport Human Rights Watch’s Israel and Palestine Director Omar Shakir.

Shakir has called the legislation part of a “targeted campaign against rights defenders”, and denies his support for the movement.

Speaking to The New Arab regarding Barghouti’s case, Shakir said: “Deporting a Palestinian permanent resident who has lived here for 26 years and separating him from his family over his peaceful advocacy would mark a dangerous escalation.” 

Read more: 'Gay Olympics': Eurovision brings Israel's record on LGBT+ rights to the forefront

“Israel will continue to push the boundaries in its escalating assault on those who challenge its policies towards Palestinians so long as the international outcry remains muted,” he added. 

Ayman Odeh, the leader of the Joint List alliance of Palestinian parties in the Israeli government, said “revoking residency or citizenship is an anti-democratic act.

"Today it’s Barghouti and tomorrow it could be anyone who doesn’t agree with the Israeli government, with the occupation policy and with Jewish supremacist laws. We will use all legal means we have to protect our rights," he said.

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