Omar Barghouti (born 1964) is a founding committee member of the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) and a co-founder of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.
Barghouti was born in Qatar to a Palestinian family from the Barghouti clan, and at a young age moved to Egypt, where he grew up. In 1982, he moved to the United States, where he lived for 11 years and earned a master's degree in electrical engineering from Columbia University. In 1993, he moved to Israel following his marriage to an Israeli-Arab woman. He holds Israeli permanent residency status and lives in Acre. Although Barghouti actively lobbies for worldwide economic, cultural and academic boycott of Israel, Barghouti himself was studying at Tel Aviv University (TAU) as of 2009. He holds a master's degree in philosophy (ethics) from the university, and is pursuing a PhD. When interviewed regarding his degree from TAU, Barghouti commented: "my studies at Tel Aviv University are a personal matter and I have no interest in commenting." A petition was created that drew over 184,000 signatories asking for the university to expel him, but he was not expelled. When asked about his attendance at an Israeli university in a 2015 interview with the Associated Press, Barghouti said Palestinians "cannot possibly observe the same boycott guidelines as asked of internationals" and that "indigenous population" is entitled to all services they can get from the system.
In 2016, the Israeli Interior Ministry refused to renew his travel permit, limiting his ability to freely travel abroad, and informed him that due to evidence of his "center of life" being in the West Bank, his permanent residency rights were under review. In March 2016, Israeli Interior Minister Aryeh Deri was quoted as saying "I received information that his life is in Ramallah and he is using his resident status to travel all over the world in order to operate against Israel in the most serious manner. He was given rights similar to those of a citizen and he took advantage of our enlightened state to portray us as the most horrible state in the world." In an email to Haaretz, Barghouti wrote: "Refusing to renew my travel document now is therefore clearly political...It does not just deny me my freedom of movement. It is seen by legal experts as a first step toward revoking my permanent residency, a clearly political and vindictive measure that has no legal basis." In April 2017, an Israeli court temporarily lifted Barghouti's travel ban. Subsequently, Barghouti traveled to the U.S. where he received the Gandhi Peace Award, presented at a ceremony held at Yale University. Because of the controversy created, Yale distanced itself from the award.
Barghouti opposes the two-state solution. He supports a one state solution in which Israel will be replaced by a Palestinian state encompassing all of what is now Israel and the Palestinian territories. He rejects the idea of a binational state, stating that "the binational model assumes that there are two nations with equal and competing moral claims to the land, and therefore we have to accommodate both national rights." According to Barghouti, only the Palestinians have "inalienable rights" to self-determination in historic Palestine as the native population, while Israeli Jews, who he refers to as a settler-colonial population, have only "acquired rights" to reside there.
Barghouti has consistently described Israel as an apartheid state, saying: "From now on, it will be acceptable to compare Israel's apartheid system to its South African predecessor. As a consequence, proposing practical measures to punish Israeli institutions for their role in the racist and colonial policies of their state will no longer be considered beyond the pale." Also: "Characterising Israel's legalised system of discrimination as apartheid – as was done by Tutu, Jimmy Carter and even a former Israeli attorney general – does not equate Israel with South Africa. No two oppressive regimes are identical. Rather, it asserts that Israel's bestowal of rights and privileges according to ethnic and religious criteria fits the UN-adopted definition of apartheid." Barghouti advocates what he holds to be an ethical vision for a unitary, secular democratic state for "historic Palestine", present-day Israel and the Palestinian territories. He refers to Israeli practices using comparisons to Nazi Germany: "Many of the methods of collective and individual “punishment” meted out to Palestinian civilians at the hands of young, racist, often sadistic and ever impervious Israeli soldiers at the hundreds of checkpoints littering the occupied Palestinian territories are reminiscent of common Nazi practices against the Jews." He believes that "Israeli society is shifting very far to the right, with ethnic cleansing becoming a mainstream term that's used in academia, in the media, in parliament, in conferences."
Barghouti accuses Palestinians who have engaged with Israelis in intellectual debates and artistic partnerships in the spirit of inter-cultural dialogue, decontextualized from the political economy of enforced population expulsion and territorial occupation, of being "guilty of moral blindness and political shortsightedness" and "clinically delusional or dangerously deceptive." In response, Samir El-Youssef states that "Barghouti's 'true peace based on justice' is that Israel must be punished, brought down to its knees, before a Palestinian is allowed to greet an Israeli in the street". He stated that ending the Israeli occupation in the West Bank will not end the BDS movement actions—since the majority of Palestinians are refugees who live in exile and have a right to return.
In response to BDS being referred to as anti-Semitic, Barghouti stated that “BDS is a non-violent human rights movement that seeks freedom, justice and equality for the Palestinian people, based on international law and universal principles of human rights. As such, BDS has consistently and categorically rejected all forms of discrimination and racism, including anti-Semitism as well as dozens of racist laws in Israel.
In April 2016, Amnesty International issued a warning that the "Israeli authorities must end their long-standing attacks on Palestinian human rights defenders (HRDs) and halt the climate of intimidation of HRDs in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories". The warning also included concern for "the safety and liberty of Palestinian human rights defender Omar Barghouti, and other Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) activists, following calls alluding to threats, including of physical harm and deprivation of basic rights, made by Israeli ministers at an anti-Boycott Divestment and Sanction conference in Jerusalem on March 28, 2016.
Joel Fishman of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, in reviewing Barghouti's 2010 book, says, regarding the land, that "Barghouti argues that the Palestinians have inalienable rights, while those of the Jews were acquired, even if they received international recognition" which he says "makes the Palestinians more equal than the Jews, and historically is wrong".
After Barghouti published an opinion piece supporting the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement in the New York Daily News in February 2013, the Daily News itself responded with an editorial saying that Barghouti is "skilled as a propagandist" and that "he piles falsehood upon falsehood to present Israel as relentlessly oppressing the Palestinians in violation of human decency, and to hold Israel exclusively responsible for the ills afflicting them." The Daily News says that Barghouti wants a "secular, democratic state built on an influx of Arabs who come to dominate the population and vote an end to Israel as a Jewish nation. That, ultimately, is the nefarious truth behind his libels."
Roberta Seid describes Barghouti's speech at UCLA as 'bring[ing] hate' and 'anti-Israel show'. Seid said that a rabbi stormed out declaring “This is anti-Semitic!” after not being allowed to challenge Barghouti's statement about Jewish communities. She further said Barghouti also denied a right to self-determination of the Jewish people, saying they are not a people and denying they have any collective rights.
- Dania Akkad, 'UK student union pro-BDS vote causes major stir in Israel,' Middle East Eye 3 June 2015.
- Omar Barghouti , 'The BDS movement explained. Why I've boycotted Israel,' New York Daily News, 25 February 2013
- 'Peace Talks Useless,' News24 12 June 2013
- Anshel Pfeffer, 'Academic boycotter to study in Tel Aviv,' The Jewish Chronicle online, 23 April 2009
- Petition, http://www.atzuma.co.il/
- "Boycott drive gains strength, raising alarm in Israel". Associated Press. 7 July 2015.
- Frommer, Rachel (April 21, 2017). "Report: Israeli Court Suspends Travel Ban on BDS Co-Founder Under Investigation for Tax Fraud, as He Prepares to Accept 'Gandhi Peace Award' at Yale". The Algemeiner.
- Kaplan Sommer, Allison (April 25, 2017). "BDS Founder Accepts U.S. Peace Prize at Yale, Sparking Controversy".
- Maurice Ostroff, 'BDS opposes the two state solution of the Arab-Israel conflict,' Jerusalem Post, 12 May 2013
- Ali Mustafa, Boycotts work”: An interview with Omar Barghouti,' The Electronic Intifada 31 May 2009: "people fighting for refugee rights like I am, know that you cannot reconcile the right of return for refugees with a two state solution."
- Omar Barghouti (12 August 2010). "Besieging Israel's siege". The Guardian. London.
- Platt, Edward (12 November 2009). "A state of collapse". New Statesman.
For over 25 years, I've supported the unitary, secular, democratic state solution for historic Palestine, because I regard it as the most ethical solution to all involved. It reconciles the inalienable rights of the indigenous Palestinian Arabs with the acquired rights of Jewish Israelis.
- Omar Barghouti , '“The Pianist” Of Palestine,' Zmag/Countercurrents.org 30 November, 2004
- Paul Jay 'Should People Boycott Israel? Transcript of Interview,' The Real News 29 August 2010
- Samir El-Youssef, 'Against boycott and its rhetoric: a reply to Omar Barghouti,' Open Democracy.net, 18 October 2005
- Part of Barghouti Interview
- Rami Younis, 'Interview: The man behind the BDS movement,' +972 magazine 14 June 2015
- Review by Joel Fishman: The Message of BDS, Scholars for Peace in the Middle East (SPME) web site, January 4, 2011
- Separating fact from fiction on BDS
- "Omar Barghouti at UCLA: A speaker who brings hate". Jewish Journal. January 16, 2014.