A founder of the Palestinian-led boycott, divestment and sanctions movement against Israel was blocked from entering the United States in what he said was a “politically motivated” move.
Omar Barghouti was traveling to the US for a speaking tour but was not allowed to board his flight from Israel’s Ben-Gurion Airport, according to a statement from the BDS movement. Barghouti said he was told his US visa was revoked for “immigration reasons.”
Barghouti was planning to meet with journalists and policymakers in Washington, New York City, Philadelphia and Chicago and attend his daughter’s wedding. “I am hurt but I am not deterred,” he said about missing that ceremony.
“Visa records are confidential under US law. Therefore, we cannot discuss the details of individual visa cases,” State Department spokesman Robert Palladino told reporters.
He also said US law does not “authorise the refusal of visas based solely on political statements or views if those statements or views would be lawful in the United States, no matter how distasteful or objectionable some may find those statements or views.”
Barghouti said in a statement that the entry ban was “ideologically and politically motivated” and part of Israel’s “escalating repression against Palestinian, Israeli and international human rights defenders.”
Hina Shamsi, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s National Security Project said the move “looks like an ideological exclusion, which is a long-discredited form of government censorship.”
Rep. Lee Zeldin, R-New York, applauded the U.S. move and described Barghouti as “anti-Israel and anti-Semitic.”
The movement advocates boycotting, divestment from and sanctions against Israeli businesses, universities and cultural institutions. Movement supporters say it is using nonviolent means to resist unjust policies toward Palestinians.
The movement has made significant gains in recent years, particularly among foreign artists and university students.
Israel says the movement masks its motives to delegitimize or destroy the Jewish state. Israel enacted a law in 2017 banning any foreigner from entering the country if that person “knowingly issues a public call for boycotting Israel.”