For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Tess Waggoner, twaggoner@aaiusa.org, 202-429-9210

Arab American Institute

Trump Administration Denies Prominent Palestinian Human Rights Advocate Entrance

On Eve of U.S. Speaking Tour, BDS Co-Founder Omar Barghouti Banned from Entry

WASHINGTON - On April 10, Omar Barghouti, a prominent Palestinian human rights activist, was denied entry into the United States at Ben Gurion Airport despite having valid travel documents. The Arab American Institute invited him to Washington to participate in a number of speaking engagements and educational programs.  

Barghouti, who is the co-founder of the Palestinian civil society led boycott, divestment and sanctions movement (BDS), was scheduled to travel to the U.S. on a speaking tour that included public events at NYU in Washington, D.C., NYU in New York City, and Harvard University; and meetings with leading policy makers, thought-leaders and journalists. After his speaking tour, Barghouti was planning to attend his daughter’s upcoming wedding.

Barghouti’s difficulties traveling in the past were due to the Israeli government restricting his ability to exit and enter Israel by not renewing his travel document. To that end, Amnesty International issued a call on February 7, 2019 demanding Israel “end the arbitrary travel ban on human rights defender Omar Barghouti.” Subsequently, he was issued an Israeli travel document. As he already possessed a U.S. visa valid through January 2021, plans for his speaking tour were confirmed. Nonetheless, on April 10, Barghouti was informed at Ben Gurion Airport by airline staff that the U.S. Consulate in Tel Aviv was directed by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to deny him from traveling to the United States. Barghouti was not provided an explanation for his denial of entry beyond an “immigration matter.”  

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AAI President James Zogby made the following statement:

“Omar Barghouti is a leading Palestinian voice on human rights. Omar’s denial of entry into the U.S. is the latest example of the Trump Administration’s disregard for those rights. Having spent considerable time here as a student and while on speaking tours, Omar visiting America was never an issue before. It is clear this arbitrary political decision is motivated by this administration’s effort to silence Palestinian voices. At a time when some members of Congress are advocating for regressive anti-BDS bills and resolutions, when states have passed legislation targeting the non-violent boycott movement in violation of our protected First Amendment rights, it is disturbing that policy makers and the American people will not have the opportunity to hear from Omar directly about his views. The voices of advocates for Palestinian human rights, whether through political targeting or regressive, discriminatory laws, are silenced when discussions or debates are denied.”

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