As the fiftieth anniversary of Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem nears, the Israeli government has intensified its efforts to criminalize the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement – BDS – which seeks, through non-violent economic pressure, to bring about a peaceful end to the occupation. In recent weeks, for example, it has passed legislation denying entry into Israel/Palestine by foreign advocates of BDS, denied travel abroad by Israeli BDS activists, and threatened the latter with “civil targeted assassination.” This has included the arrest and extended interrogation of BDS co-founder Omar Barghouti on charges of tax evasion.
In conjunction with those charges against Barghouti and his wife Safa, the Israeli government has imposed a gag order on him preventing him from telling his side of the story. It has moreover revoked his permission to travel abroad to receive the Gandhi Peace Award (presented by Promoting Enduring Peace) on April 23, 2017, in New Haven, Connecticut.
The Palestine Israel Network of the Episcopal Peace Fellowship calls on the Israeli government to drop the gag order against Omar Barghouti, dismiss the charges against him, and restore his permission to travel abroad and to return to his home.
We also call on the Israeli government to cease its efforts to intimidate and harass domestic and foreign advocates of BDS and, in particular, to rescind orders that restrict free speech and entry into and/or exit from Israel/Palestine.
We would note, in this regard, the long and honorable history of BDS in achieving positive action through peaceful non-violent means. This history has included the Montgomery bus boycott of 1955-56; the nationwide grape boycott 1965-66 in support of farmworkers in California’s Central Valley; the South Africa boycott which the Episcopal Church supported in 1985; and, most recently, the boycott of North Carolina stemming from its anti-LGBTQ legislation.
We would also note the March 7 and March 9, 2017 statements by David Harris, the Chief Executive of the American Jewish Committee (AJC) and Olaf Fykse, the General Secretary of the World Council of Churches (WCC), expressing their concerns regarding the just-enacted “Entry to Israel Act,” which would ban entry to foreigners who publicly advocate BDS.
Stating that he was “troubled” by the Act, Harris said that the AJC “as a long-time staunch friend of Israel and opponent of the BDS movement, fully sympathizes with the underlying desire to defend the legitimacy of the state of Israel….[but] as history has amply shown throughout the democratic world, barring entry to otherwise qualified visitors on the basis of their political views will not by itself help to defeat BDS, nor will it help Israel’s image as the beacon of democracy in the Middle East it is.”
Calling it a “shockingly regressive law,” Fykse said the Act “would be a clear violation of freedom of expression, that is critical for those who want to visit Israel, for those who have to live under the occupation, and for those who want access to the Palestinian territories. It is also a significant violation of freedom of religion.”