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Leading Palestinian BDS campaigner prevented from leaving Israel

Prominent human rights activist Omar Barghouti says Israel has imposed a travel ban 'to intimidate me into silence'
Omar Barghouti co-founded the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement (Omar Barghouti)

Israeli officials have refused to renew the travel documents of one of the founders of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, according to the campaign’s Palestinian committee.

The committee says Omar Barghouti, a prominent Palestinian human rights activist who co-founded the movement which calls for a cultural, economic and academic boycott of Israel, has effectively been banned from leaving the country where he lives with his family.

“I am unnerved but certainly undeterred by these threats,” Barghouti was quoted as saying in a Tuesday statement from the committee. “Nothing will stop me from struggling for my people’s freedom, justice and peace.”

"Effectively, I cannot travel at all," he told the AFP news agency. "Israel is imposing this travel ban on me, demonising me and threatening me to intimidate me into silence."

The revoking of Barghouti’s documents come as the BDS movement, launched more than a decade, appears to be gaining momentum and raising heightened debate inside Israel.

Last November, the European Union issued guidelines for the labelling of products from Israeli settlements in occupied Palestinian and Syrian territories.

In March, the world’s largest security firm, G4S, which has attracted protests for providing security systems and other services to Israeli prisons and detention centres, announced it would sell its operations in Israel by 2018.

The company denied that its decision was linked to the boycott campaign, but campaigners said they believed that their pressure had played a role.

Other multinational companies including French transport and municipal services firm Veolia and telecoms giant Orange also announced their exits from Israel in the past year.

An Israeli interior ministry spokeswoman told AFP that Barghouti could not yet receive his travel documents because interior minister Aryeh Deri is considering revoking his permanent residency.

"The minister wants to consider his status. He lives in Ramallah most of the time and part of what determines one's permanent residency is where the centre of life is," she said. "His (BDS) activities are also part of this."

Barghouti, whose family is Palestinian but who was born in the Gulf state of Qatar, married an Israeli citizen, entitling him to claim permanent residency.

Barghouti denied that he had ever been permanently based in the West Bank city of Ramallah.

"I reside with my family in our home in Acre (in Israel)," he told AFP. "I've had Israeli permanent residency for almost 23 years, in accordance with the law and without any violations."

At a 28 March anti-BDS conference in Jerusalem in late March, Deri reportedly first threatened publicly to revoke Barghouti’s permanent residency.

During the same conference, transportation and intelligence Minister Yisrael Katz called for a “targeted civil eliminations” of BDS leaders with the help of Israeli intelligence, according to a +972 report.

After the conference, Amnesty International warned that it was concerned for Barghouti’s safety, urging Israeli authorities to “take immediate steps to provide protection necessary” for human rights defenders to carry out their work freely and without fear of attacks.

Middle East Eye has asked the Israeli Interior Ministry to comment on whether it will move forward with revoking Barghouti's permanent residency and Amnesty’s concerns, but has not yet had a response.

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