Civil liberties advocates and press freedom groups were appalled Thursday when the Donald Trump administration announced that Omar Barghouti—a Palestinian activist at the forefront of efforts to use nonviolent tactics to end the Israeli occupation—was barred from entering the United States.
According to the Arab American Institute, Barghouti was denied access to a plane to the U.S. at Israel's Ben Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv. Officials at the airport allegedly told Barghouti that American immigration officials made the request.
Barghouti, in a statement released by the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions Movement, or BDS, placed the blame for the decision on Israel's tactics to silence state critics.
"Israel is not merely continuing its decades-old system of military occupation, apartheid, and ethnic cleansing," said Barghouti. "It is increasingly outsourcing its outrageous, McCarthyite repression to the U.S. and to xenophobic, far right cohorts across the world."
Omar Barghouti, a co-founder of the BDS Movement, was denied entry to the US by US immigration officials yesterday.— BDS movement (@BDSmovement) April 11, 2019
Israel is outsourcing its escalating repression against Palestinian, Israeli & international human rights defenders in the #BDS movement.
His statement is below: pic.twitter.com/SiZftO7Ezl
Barghouti's involvement in starting BDS has earned him the wrath of both Israel and the U.S.
The Institute for Middle East Understanding posted an explainer video on Twitter after learning of Barghouti's plight.
BREAKING: The U.S. denied Omar Barghouti entry into the country, escalating a crackdown on boycott advocates demanding Palestinian freedom from Israel’s control. Here’s a look at what BDS means and why boycotts are a potent tool helping Palestinians gain justice and equality. pic.twitter.com/Vu6gceReI9— The IMEU (@theIMEU) April 11, 2019
The State Department declined to comment, NPR reported, citing confidentiality concerns. Israel denied any involvement in the decision.
But a number of Palestinian advocates and activists in America and around the world did have something to say—and their comments were overwhelmingly opposed to the alleged decision by American officials to deny Barghouti entry to the U.S.
"It is disturbing that policymakers and the American people will not have the opportunity to hear from Omar directly about his views," said James Zogby, the president of the Arab American Institute, in a statement.
Jewish Voice for Peace asked supporters to sign a petition requesting the State Department allow Barghouti into the U.S.
The decision to bar him was "unconscionable," said Rebecca Vilkomerson, the organization's executive director.
Please sign and share to make some noise about the unconscionable decision by the U.S. to ban Omar Barghouti from entering the country! https://t.co/wmqrXsNMmN— Rebecca Vilkomerson (@RVilkomerson) April 11, 2019
Literature and human rights organization PEN America called for an explanation from the government as to why Barghouti's entry to the U.S. was denied.
"The U.S. government needs to explain immediately why Omar Barghouti was blocked today from traveling to the U.S.," Summer Lopez, the organization's senior director of free expression programs, said in a statement.
#PENAmerica: Exclusion of Palestinian #BDS activist Omar Barghouti on ideological grounds would be a violation of his free expression rights, as well as an infringement on the rights of those who have planned to hear him speak at public events in the U.S. https://t.co/4ejZcRzlga— PEN America (@PENamerican) April 11, 2019
"Preventing Mr. Barghouti from traveling denies Americans the opportunity to hear, engage with, and challenge his views as they see fit," Lopez added. "Denying him entry based on his political views is a violation of the basic principles of free expression and open discourse protected by the First Amendment."