Omar Barghouti (Arabic: عمر البرغوثي, 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. He received the Gandhi Peace Award in 2017.
|Known for||Co-founder of the BDS movement|
|Awards||Gandhi Peace Award|
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. He holds a master's degree in philosophy (ethics) from the Tel Aviv University (TAU), and is pursuing a PhD.
Barghouti's views align strongly with those of the BDS movement which he co-founded.
Barghouti opposes the two-state solution because he doesn't believe a Palestinian state is viable and would not resolve the "fundamental injustices" that has been brought upon the Palestinians. He instead supports a one state solution encompassing all of what is now Israel and the Palestinian territories, in which these will be replaced by a "secular, democratic state... offering unequivocal equality in citizenship and individual and communal rights both to Palestinians (refugees included) and to Israeli Jews". Palestinian refugees would be allowed to return to this state which would have a "transparent and nondiscriminatory immigration policy."
Barghouti 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." Instead, Barghouti argues that a single, secular state with equal rights for Jews and Palestinians is the only way to reconcile "the inalienable, UN-sanctioned rights of the indigenous people of Palestine to self-determination repatriation, and equality" with the "acquired rights of Israeli Jews to coexist — as equals, not colonial masters — in the land of Palestine."
Barghouti is a vocal critic of the Palestinian Authority which he sees as a tool for Israeli oppression:
In the West Bank you have a largely obedient Palestinian Authority (PA) that acts mainly as a subcontractor for the Israeli occupation, serving its "security" needs and relieving it of its civic burdens of running education, health, sanitation, ...
Palestinian officials, lacking a democratic mandate and running after the trappings of power, narrow economic interests, and privilege, have through years of a US-Israeli designed and managed “peace process” effectively surrendered the right of return as it is defined by the UN; accepted Israel’s occupation and colonization of key parts of the West Bank, including in East Jerusalem; expunged the 1948 Palestinians, who are Israeli citizens, from the very definition of the Palestinian people, indirectly legitimizing Israeli apartheid; forsaken the moral high ground by accepting a symmetry between the "claims of both sides;" and played along Israel’s public relations campaign of portraying its colonial conflict with the Palestinian people as merely one over some disputed land.
According to Barghouti, they are "unelected and unrepresentative" without any legitimacy from the Palestinian people.
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." 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."
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.
Our non-violent struggle has never been against Jews or Israelis as Jews, but against an unjust regime that enslaves our people with occupation, apartheid and denial of the refugees’ UN-stipulated rights. We are proud of the disproportionately high number of Jewish activists in the BDS movement, especially in the U.S.
Conflating time-honored, human-rights-based boycotts of Israel’s violations of international law with anti-Jewish racism is not only false, it is a racist attempt to put all Jews into one basket and to implicate them in Israel’s crimes against the Palestinians.
Israel’s charge of racism against the BDS movement is akin to the Ku Klux Klan accusing Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks of racism! It is so blatantly propagandistic.
Dialogue and the "peace process"
Barghouti is skeptical to the "peace process" which he in writing often puts in quotes. He does not believe that dialogue with Israel or the Israelis will end the oppression of Palestinians:
The main reason is because it’s morally flawed and based on the false premise that this so-called conflict is mainly due to mutual hatred and, therefore, you need some kind of therapy or dialogue between those two equivalent, symmetric, warring parties. Put them in a room, force them to talk to one another, then they will fall in love, the hatred will go away and you will have your Romeo and Juliet story. Of course, this is deceitful and morally very corrupt because the conflict is a colonial conflict — it’s not a domestic dispute between a husband and wife — it’s a colonial conflict based on ethnic cleansing, racism, colonialism and apartheid. Without taking away the roots of the conflict you cannot have any coexistence, at least not ethical coexistence.
Barghouti believes that Palestinians who engage 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, are "guilty of moral blindness and political shortsightedness." 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.
Israeli government intimidation
In March 2016, at an anti-BDS conference in Jerusalem, several Israeli ministers made threatening remarks directed against Barghouti and other BDS leaders. Yisrael Katz, Israeli Minister of Transport, Intelligence and Atomic Energy called on Israel to engange in "targeted civil eliminations" of BDS leaders. The expression puns on the Hebrew word for targeted assassinations. Gilad Erdan, Minister of Public Security, Strategic Affairs and Minister of Information called for BDS leaders to "pay the price" for their work, but clarified that he did not mean physical harm. Aryeh Deri, Minister of Interior, said that he is considering revoking Barghouti's permanent residency in Israel.
In response, Amnesty International in April issued a statement expressing its concern about "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".
In 2016, the Israeli Interior Ministry refused to renew his travel permit, limiting his ability to 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." Due to the travel restrictions, Barghouti could not be physically present at a 2016 conference at Stanford University about the BDS movement. Nevertheless, on April 27, 2016, he spoke at the conference over a Skype connection from Israel.
In April 2017, an Israeli court temporarily lifted Barghouti's travel ban. Subsequently, Barghouti traveled to the United States 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.
In February 2019, Amnesty requested Israel to "end the arbitrary travel ban" on Barghouti. The organization argued that he was under a de facto travel ban as the Israeli authorities have failed to renew his travel document.
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 the Jewish nation. That, ultimately, is the nefarious truth behind his libels."
Although Barghouti lobbies for a worldwide economic, cultural and academic boycott of Israel, Barghouti himself has studied at an Israeli university. When asked about it, Barghouti commented: "my studies at Tel Aviv University are a personal matter and I have no interest in commenting." 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.
- Barghouti, Omar (2010). Boycott, désinvestissement, sanctions: BDS contre l'apartheid et l'occupation de la Palestine. La fabrique. ISBN 978-2-35872-103-5.
- Barghouti, Omar (2011). Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions: The Global Struggle for Palestinian Rights. Haymarket Books. ISBN 978-1-60846-114-1.
- Barghouti, Omar; Klein, Naomi; Ilan, Pappé; Zizek, Slavoj; Alexandrowicz, Ra'Anan (2012). The Case for Sanctions Against Israel. Verso. ISBN 978-1-84467-450-3.
- 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
- "עומר נפץ - ידיעות אחרונות". article.yedioth.co.il.
- 'Peace Talks Useless,' News24 12 June 2013
- Anshel Pfeffer, 'Academic boycotter to study in Tel Aviv,' The Jewish Chronicle online, 23 April 2009
- "עומאר ברגותי, ממייסדי ה-BDS, חשוד בהעלמת 700 אלף דולר". גלובס. 20 March 2017.
- "Israel Arrests BDS Founder Omar Barghouti for Tax Evasion". 21 March 2017 – via Haaretz.
- "Co-founder of BDS movement arrested in Israel for tax evasion - Arab-Israeli Conflict - Jerusalem Post". www.jpost.com.
- Abunimah, Ali (29 November 2007). "The One State Declaration". The Electronic Intifada.
- 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."
- Barghouti, Omar (2011). BDS: Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions : the Global Struggle for Palestinian Rights. Haymarket Books. p. 51. ISBN 9781608461141. Retrieved 1 June 2019.
- Barghouti, O. (2011). BDS: Boycott, divestment, sanctions: The global struggle for Palestinian rights. Haymarket Books. p. 51
- "Whitewashing Palestine to Eliminate Israel". Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.
- "BDS: A GLOBAL MOVEMENT FOR FREEDOM AND JUSTICE" (PDF).
- "Interview: Omar Barghouti on the boycott campaign for Palestine".
- Omar Barghouti (12 August 2010). "Besieging Israel's siege". The Guardian. London.
- 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
- Rami Younis, 'Interview: The man behind the BDS movement,' +972 magazine 14 June 2015
- Abunimah, Ali (13 March 2012). "Palestinian writers, activists disavow racism, anti-Semitism of Gilad Atzmon". Electronic Intifada. Retrieved 29 June 2018.
- Abunimah, Ali (12 October 2012). "The struggle for Palestinian rights is incompatible with any form of racism or bigotry: a statement by Palestinians". Electronic Intifada. Retrieved 29 June 2018.
- ""Boycotts work": An interview with Omar Barghouti".
- Samir El-Youssef, 'Against boycott and its rhetoric: a reply to Omar Barghouti,' Open Democracy.net, 18 October 2005
- myisraelHE (5 February 2014). "האמת מאחורי תנועת החרם על ישראל- חובה להפיץ!" – via YouTube.
- Mairav Zonszein, 'In Israel, BDS is winning,'+972 magazine 28 March 2016.
- "Israeli government must cease intimidation of human rights defenders, protect them from attacks". Amnesty International USA. April 10, 2016.
- Khoury, Jack; Press, The Associated (10 May 2016). "Israel Bars BDS Founder Omar Barghouti From Travel Abroad" – via Haaretz.
- David Landy; Ronit Lentin; Conor McCarthy (15 May 2020). Enforcing Silence: Academic Freedom, Palestine and the Criticism of Israel. Zed Books. p. 183. ISBN 978-1-78699-653-4.
- 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".
- "ISRAEL: END THE ARBITRARY TRAVEL BAN ON HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDER OMAR BARGHOUTI" (PDF). Amnesty. February 7, 2019.
- Editorials. "Separating fact from fiction on BDS". nydailynews.com.
- "Boycott drive gains strength, raising alarm in Israel". Associated Press. 7 July 2015.