US Blocks Entry to Controversial BDS Activist Omar Barghouti Ahead of Speaking Tour
by Benjamin Kerstein
Omar Barghouti, one of the world’s most prominent supporters of the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement, has been denied entry to the United States.
Barghouti was about to depart for the US from Ben-Gurion Airport near Tel Aviv when he was informed that US immigration authorities would refuse him entry into the country.
A State Department official told The Algemeiner in regard to the case, “Visa records are confidential under US law; therefore, we cannot discuss the details of individual visa cases.”
The Arab American Institute (AAI), an American organization that helped organize Barghouti’s trip to the US, said that Barghouti was denied entry due to an “immigration matter.” Barghouti’s visit had been set to include speaking engagements at universities, meetings with Washington officials, and an appearance at a venue owned by Marc Lamont Hill, a former CNN commentator who was fired from the network after he called for a “Free Palestine from the river to the sea” — often interpreted as a call for Israel’s elimination — and failed to rule out violence as a means of Palestinian “resistance.”
Barghouti himself has a long record of controversial statements about Israel, including endorsing its destruction in favor of an Arab-majority state, defending the use of terrorism, comparing Israel to Nazi Germany, accusing the Jewish state of supporting the Taliban and al-Qaeda, denying that Jews faced persecution and violence while living in Arab-majority lands, and calling for the “euthanasia” of Zionism.
“A Jewish state in Palestine in any shape or form cannot but contravene the basic rights of the indigenous Palestinian population and perpetuate a system of racial discrimination that ought to be opposed categorically,” he has said.
In 2017, Barghouti was arrested by Israeli authorities on suspicion of tax evasion. He reportedly concealed $700,000 in income from a tech company he runs, speaking fees, and book royalties.
Gerald Steinberg, president of the Israeli research organization NGO Monitor, told The Algemeiner that Barghouti “is the Palestinian face of the antisemitic boycott campaign.”
Steinberg observed that “the US government, like other countries, is not required to state the reasons for denying a visa, but there are a number of possible explanations, including his BDS role.”
Noting Barghouti’s arrest on tax evasion charges, Steinberg said that the sum of money involved “suggests activities other than BDS lecture tours that might have triggered the American decision.”