Groundbreaking Call to Prevent US Aid for Palestinian Demolition

US FUNDS AND EQUIPMENT USED TO DISPLACE COMMUNITIES IN THE OCCUPIED WEST BANK

J Street, March 16, 2020

J Street welcomes a groundbreaking congressional letter that calls on the Trump administration to strongly oppose the Israeli government’s demolition and displacement of Palestinian communities in the occupied West Bank, and to determine whether materiel purchased from or funded by the United States is being used to carry out these demolitions. The letter is particularly important in light of the White House’s signals of support for Israeli government efforts to illegally annex large portions of occupied Palestinian territory.

The letter to Secretary of State Pompeo is signed by 64 members of Congress and was led by Reps. Ro Khanna (D-CA), Anna Eshoo (D-CA) and Steve Cohen (D-TN). Expressing concern over ongoing demolitions in the West Bank, it notes that the United States “should work to prevent unlawful home demolitions and the forcible transfer of civilians everywhere in the world and prevent the use of U.S.-origin equipment in this destructive practice,” and requests an examination of Israeli compliance with the provisions of the Arms Export Control Act.

We believe this letter sends an important message that the full amount of US security aid and equipment provided to and purchased by Israel should be used for legitimate self-defense against the very real security threats it faces — and not to carry out disastrous policies that undermine US and Israeli interests, trample on Palestinian human rights and potentially violate US law.

Strangers in Our Homeland


MK Aida Touma-Sliman, January 15th, 2019. Photo: Mazur/catholicnews.org.uk via Flickr

Aida Touma-Sliman, JewishCurrents, February 6, 2020

LAST WEEK, Donald Trump and Benjamin Netanyahu announced a deal that is intended to determine the future of the Palestinian people, without a single Palestinian present in the room or involved in the consultation process. They unveiled the plan in the midst of Trump’s impeachment trial and on the same day that Netanyahu was indicted for corruption. Like a group of men deliberating women’s reproductive freedoms, the Americans and Israelis who drafted the plan intend to unilaterally decide the fate of Palestinians, our land, and our fundamental rights. The plan’s total erasure of Palestinian voices and blatant denial of these rights lays bare the real intentions of the Trump and Netanyahu administrations.

Just as importantly, the past week clarifies the positions of so-called moderates—from US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to Israel’s Benny Gantz, leader of the Blue and White Party—who have either barely protested or outright endorsed the plan. While it is no secret that the US and Israel have always rendered Palestinian narratives, demands, and aspirations secondary, centrist acquiescence to Trump’s plan suggests that the “deal of the century” is the logical culmination of a long-held vision of an apartheid Palestinian pseudo-state, bereft of meaningful sovereignty or self-determination. 

Trump and Netanyahu have inherited this vision and added their typical vulgarity. Their plan would enshrine Jewish supremacy in all of Israel and historic Palestine, annexing Jewish-only settlements in the West Bank, the Jordan Valley, and East Jerusalem, while leaving Palestinians in the occupied territories with a patchwork of isolated ghettos surrounded by walls and military checkpoints. Israeli law would be applied in all settlements, which violate international law and numerous UN resolutions. Israel would retain sovereign control over the air and sea, as well as absolute “security” control in the entire territory west of the Jordan River. Jerusalem, including occupied Palestinian East Jerusalem and its holy sites, will remain entirely in Israeli hands. And Palestinian refugees will be categorically denied their right to return to the land from which they were expelled by Israel because they were not Jewish. 

The plan would also have dire consequences for Palestinian citizens of Israel, many of whom would probably be stripped of their citizenship and transferred to the new Palestinian “state” under the plan’s proposed land swaps. To those ends, Israel’s Tourism Minister, Yariv Levin, has already raised the specter of de-nationalizating Israel’s Palestinian citizens, who make up about 20% of the population, or about 1.8 million people. Many people in this category would likely lose the ability to travel within most of historic Palestine and be subject to the same restrictions, including on movement, imposed on citizens of the new Palestinian “state.” 

As a Palestinian citizen of Israel myself, I have been treated with suspicion and as a threat by the government for my whole life, a fifth column in my own homeland. Will I now be told to move to the new Palestine, or remain and accept permanent second- or third-class Israeli citizenship? We already face dozens of laws that discriminate against us—including the so-called “Jewish nation-state” law, which has effectively made segregation official national policy—because we are not Jewish. With Trump’s plan, Israel’s claim to being a liberal democracy that values human rights has been discredited once and for all.

Trump and Netanyahu’s plan, then, is outrageously unapologetic in its denial of Palestinian rights and its whitewashing of Israeli colonization. In key respects, however, it does not represent a radical break with the many previous plans proposed over the past several decades—by both Democrats and Republicans, by Israel’s Labor and Likud—to “grant” Palestinians nominally autonomous, discontiguous parcels of land surrounded by Israeli settlements and under the control of the Israeli military, and to pass off these bantustans as an independent state. As far back as 1978, Prime Minister Menachem Begin proposed granting Palestinians a limited “autonomy” or home rule in scraps of the occupied Palestinian territories in an attempt to quash Palestinian demands for independence. The 1993 Oslo Accords offered Palestinians limited self-rule in parts of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, while allowing unfettered Israeli settlement expansion—with the number of Israeli settlers more than tripling since the signing of the peace agreement. 

Gantz, supposedly a moderate alternative to Netanyahu, has embraced Trump and Netanyahu’s racist annexation plan, and vowed to bring it for approval in the Knesset. The Joint List—the coalition of Arab-majority parties, of which I am a member—will not support any candidate or party that supports annexation, including Gantz. Indeed, with rare exceptions, most Jewish Israeli politicians subscribe, implicitly or explicitly, to Trump and Netanyahu’s agenda of segregation, intolerance, and xenophobia, as evidenced by the nation-state law and others passed in recent years, like the so-called Nakba law, which is intended to suppress public discussion and debate of the mass expulsion of Palestinians that accompanied Israel’s establishment as a Jewish state in 1948.

In the US, meanwhile, even some Democrats critical of Trump and Netanyahu have been muted in their criticism of this scheme. Reacting to a summary of the plan last week, Pelosi declared that it “appears to be a basis for negotiations . . . so let us be optimistic and hopeful.” Echoing Pelosi, House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot Engel of New York declared: “There’s some good room for hope there.”

With the notable exception of Bernie Sanders, Democratic presidential hopefuls have thus far refrained from proposing concrete ideas to end US complicity in Israel’s apartheid regime, with some even proudly reiterating their support for Israel. Because our shared values of freedom, equality, and democracy are on the line more clearly than ever before, Democrats can no longer get away with claiming progressive credentials in some arenas while remaining willfully blind to injustice elsewhere. Trump and Netanyahu recognize their own shared values and are working hand in hand; Democratic leaders likewise need to understand that Palestinians are their natural allies in resisting the onslaught of Trumpism in the US and around the globe.

The time has finally come for Israeli leaders to pay a price for their half-century-old occupation of Palestinian lands, for seven decades of ethnic cleansing, for blockading the Gaza Strip for over a decade, and for their relentless incitement against and attempts to exclude us—Israel’s Palestinian citizens—from equal citizenship in our own homeland.

Aida Touma-Sliman is a member of the Israeli Knesset representing Hadash/The Joint List.

Activists Reclaimed a Water Source for Palestinians, Showing Co-Resistance Works

A man raises his arms in triumph next to a sign reading "Ein Albeida spring"
A Palestinian activist sticks a sign bearing the Palestinian name of Ein Albeida spring over an Israeli street sign with the name Avigail Spring, south of the village of Yatta near Hebron in the occupied West Bank on January 3, 2020. (Hazem Bader-AFP via Getty Images)

Oren Kroll-Zeldin, Truthout, January 10, 2020

Recently, nonviolent Palestinian activist Kifah Adara drew water from the Ein Albeida spring near her West Bank village of Al-Tuwani for the first time in 15 years. The spring is a natural water source that was used by Palestinian communities in the region for generations, but a decade and a half ago, nearby Israeli settlers started swimming in the spring, which dirtied the water and made it unsuitable for drinking. For years, due to settler violence and intimidation tactics, Palestinians couldn’t access the spring at all.

That all changed after a massive nonviolent direct action in which a group of over 150 Palestinian, Israeli, and diaspora Jewish activists reclaimed and rehabilitated Ein Albeida, thereby enabling Adara to walk from her village to fill water buckets for the first time since her youth. “I remember coming to this spring with women from my village to collect water for our families,” Adara said after the action. “We would travel 1.5 kilometers on our donkeys, just like we did today. Once Israeli settlers began swimming in this spring, it was no longer safe for us to drink. For many years, we could not access the spring at all. I am so happy to be back at this spring. I hope that, through the work we started today, the people of this region can use this water again.”

A woman stands in front of her donkey bearing jugs of water
Kifah Adara and her donkey carry water from Ein Albeida spring to nearby olive trees. (Emily Glick)

Ein Albeida, which means “White Spring” in Arabic, is the only natural water source for people living in Al-Tuwani and other nearby villages. The spring is also near Avigayil, an illegal Israeli outpost established in 2001. Settlers living in Avigayil have access to electricity and running water provided by the Israeli government, despite the outpost being considered illegal under Israeli law, while the Palestinian village of Al-Tuwani lacks these services. This is representative of one of the many structural inequalities of the Israeli occupation in the West Bank, where services are systematically denied to Palestinians while brazenly given to Israeli Jewish settlers.

The coalition of activists who participated in the action with Adara joined her to show their solidarity with the Palestinian struggle against occupation and to assert their commitment to justice in the region. Adara invited the Israeli and diaspora Jewish members of this coalition to demonstrate their commitment to Palestinian solidarity by leveraging their privilege, as Jews, to protect her and other Palestinian activists from settler and state violence.

I participated in the action through a delegation with the Center for Jewish Nonviolence, a group that brings Jews from around the world to engage in nonviolent direct action and co-resistance projects alongside Palestinian and Israeli partners. My participation is central to my academic research investigating Jewish anti-occupation activism and the politics of Jewish identity.

A woman passes a jug of water to another person while in a cave
Members of All That’s Left: Anti-Occupation Collective gathering water at Ein Albeida spring. (Emily Glick)

My research points to two important things with regard to this delegation and the action to rehabilitate and reclaim Ein Albeida. First, whereas previous research claimed that Jews engage critically with Israeli policies of occupation out of love for Israel and a desire to make it better, many of the activists with whom I am working are instead motivated by a deep commitment to justice, especially for Palestinians. Second, though there are many methods and tactics used to end the occupation, the co-resistance model is one of the most impactful in showing tangible results to improve the lives of Palestinians on the ground. The nature of this organizing model also builds a vibrant, intersectional, and powerful anti-occupation social movement by building trust and relationships through embodied actions.

Co-resistance means that Palestinians, Israelis, Jews from the diaspora and international activists resist policies and structures of occupation in collaboration with one another. In the co-resistance model, Palestinians set the conditions for action and invite partners to join them based on the shared commitments to bring a just and equitable end to the Israeli occupation. Only those truly committed to dismantling the connected systems of oppression that harm communities in Palestine and Israel are invited to participate in co-resistance actions.

Through co-resistance, Palestinians, Israelis and international Jews build alliances across their differences that enables them to resist in relationship to each other. Building relationships structured on resistance is rooted in the tacit understanding that the liberation of one is deeply intertwined with the liberation of another. The co-resistance model demonstrates, in practice and on the ground, the words of Paulo Freire, who wrote in Pedagogy of the Oppressed, “[W]e cannot say that in the process of revolution someone liberates someone else, nor yet that someone liberates himself, but rather that human beings in communion liberate each other.”

A woman with a farm tool works the ground as military vehicles line up in the distance behind her
A Center for Jewish Nonviolence leader planting olive trees next to Ein Albeida spring as the Israeli Army surveys in the background. (Emily Glick)

As exemplified by the direct action that allowed Adara to return to Ein Albeida, co-resistance shows how the symbolic power of Palestinians, Israelis and international Jews coming together is a model for what a future of liberation and equality for all people who live in Palestine and Israel could look like.

When Jewish activists join together in co-resistance and engage in projects to make life more livable for Palestinian communities, we refuse to enable the occupation. Co-resistance is therefore a rejection of the continued annexation of Palestinian land and resources, and the erasure of Palestinian life and culture. By engaging in co-resistance, we uplift Palestinian resilience and leadership and show by our physical presence that occupation is not our Judaism. This type of activism is a way of asserting a liberatory Jewish identity based in justice for all people while reclaiming Judaism from Israeli state violence.

In these dark days, co-resistance is a ray of light that inspires hope for the possibility of a more just tomorrow.


The stakes have never been higher

As attacks on women’s rights, health care, the environment and democracy intensify, we’re going to need truth-telling journalists more than ever.

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Gaza 2020: How easy it is for the world to delete Palestinian pain


A man holds the hand of Maria al-Gazali, a 14-month-old Palestinian baby, as her body lies on a stretcher at a hospital in Beit Lahia, northern Gaza on 5 May 2019. She died during an Israeli air strike (AFP)

David Hearst, Middle East Eye, 13 December 2019

I would like you to try an exercise. Google the words  “family of eight killed” and you will be given several options – one in Sonora, Mexico, another in Pike, Ohio, yet another in Mendocino County, California.

But Google’s massive memory seems to have suffered amnesia over what took place just one month ago in Deir al-Baba, Gaza.

To recap, because you, too, may have forgotten: on 14 November, an Israeli pilot dropped a one-tonne JDAM bomb on a building where eight members of one family were sleeping. Five of them were children. Two of them were infants.

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The bodies of five children from the same family killed in an Israeli air strike on 14 November lie in a hospital ward in Gaza (MEE/Atiyya Darwish)

At first, the Israeli army tried to lie its way out of responsibility for the killing of al-Sawarka family (one other family member has since died of injuries, taking the total to nine). Its Arabic-language spokesman claimed that the building was a command post for an Islamic Jihad rocket-launching unit in the central Gaza Strip.

However, as Haaretz revealed, the target was at least a year old. The intelligence was based on rumours, and no one had bothered to check who was living inside that building: they just dropped the bomb anyway.

The Israeli army need not have bothered lying. No one took any notice

Military intelligence capable of identifying and hitting moving targets like Bahaa Abu al-Atta, the Islamic Jihad’s commander in the northern Gaza Strip – or attempting to kill Akram al-Ajouri, a member of its political bureau in Damascus – is simultaneously incapable of updating its target bank from one year ago.

The Israeli army need not have bothered lying. No one took any notice. Neither the exchange of rocket fire nor the killing of the Sawarka family made the front pages of the Guardian, New York Times or Washington Post.

Israel’s diet plan for Gaza

This is Gaza now: a brutal siege of a forgotten people subsisting in conditions predicted to be unlivable by the UN in 2020, a year that is just a few weeks away.

It is inaccurate to say that the deaths of the Sawarka family were met with indifference in Israel.

Benjamin Netanyahu’s sole rival for the leadership is Benny Gantz. Anyone in western capitals mistaking Gantz for a peacenik, merely because he is challenging Netanyahu, should look at a series of campaign videos the former Israeli army chief published recently about Gaza.

One of them starts with the sort of footage that a Russian drone could have taken after its bombardment of East Aleppo. The devastation is like Dresden or Nagasaki. It takes a disturbing few seconds to realise that this horrendous drone footage is a celebration of destruction, not an indictment of it.

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BREAKING: US Disregards International Law On Israeli Settlements


  November 18, 2019

Washington, D.C. | www.adc.org | November 18, 2019 – Moments ago Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that the Trump Administration will no longer view Israeli settlements as against international law. This is another step taken by the Trump Administration to thwart and bury the idea of a peace process, and further solidifying Israel as an apartheid state. This administration’s complete disregard for international law, and over four decades of American policy, undermines and delegitimizes the U.S. on the global stage – the international community overwhelmingly considers the settlements illegal.

ADC is committed to a just and lasting peace in the region, and any peaceful resolution of the conflict requires the cessation of expansion and dismantlement of all settlements; an end to the collective punishment imposed on the Palestinian population as a result of Israeli occupation policies; an end to the siege of Gaza; the exercise of the democratic rights of Palestinians in electing their government; the creation of a viable and independent Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital, and the upholding of the right of return of the Palestinian refugees under international law.

Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention explicitly states that “The occupying power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own population into the territories it occupies.” Israel has been illegally settling on Palestinian land since 1948 with impunity, and encouragement from the U.S. With his remarks today Secretary Pompeo did not address whether or not Israel violated international law, instead he indicated that international law is meaningless – which is a mark of an authoritarian regime.

The Trump Administration has given a green light to Benjamin Netanyahu and the Israeli government to continue the annexation of Palestinian land. These actions are extreme positions that undermine any possibility of peace. These actions continue to legitimize violence and ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian people. This will only lead to the furtherance of an Israeli apartheid state where Palestinians are treated as second class citizens.

Israel pushing Palestinians to leave Gaza


Relatives of Muhammad Abu Namous, one of three Palestinians killed along the Gaza-Israel boundary overnight, mourn during his funeral in Beit Lahiya, northern Gaza, on 18 August. (Mariam Dagga/APA images)

Maureen Clare Murphy, The Electronic Intifada, 19 August 2019

“Israel is ready to carry the costs of helping Gazans emigrate,” and would potentially use air force bases in Israel for that purpose, The Times of Israel reported on Monday.

The unnamed official, in Kyiv as part of Benjamin Netanyahu’s delegation to Ukraine, added that more than 35,000 Palestinians left the coastal enclave last year.

Two million Palestinians live in the Gaza Strip, which has been subjected to a punishing Israeli economic blockade for 12 years and repeated military offensives.

Residents of the territory have been plunged into poverty and cut off from the rest of Palestine and the wider world.

Every two in three Palestinians in Gaza is a refugee from lands inside what is now Israel. That government forbids them from exercising their right to return as enshrined in international law because they are not Jews.

The senior Israeli official was reported by The Times of Israel as saying that his government is asking countries to absorb Palestinians emigrating from Gaza.

“The official said the National Security Council had been spearheading the effort, with Netanyahu’s blessing, for about a year,” The Times of Israel added. It has also been “discussed in the security cabinet several times.”

No European or Middle Eastern country has agreed to participate in the scheme, according to the publication. The official did not say whether any other governments are cooperating.

The revelation is an example of how ideas that supposedly exist only at the extreme fringes of Israeli politics are often not far from government policy.

During Israel’s 2014 assault on Gaza, Moshe Feiglin, then deputy speaker of Israel’s parliament, proposed a plan to “concentrate” Palestinians in Gaza in border camps and “exterminate” any who resisted, while destroying all civilian housing and infrastructure.

Feiglin, who represented Netanyahu’s ruling Likud Party, suggested that “Israel will start searching for emigration destinations and quotas for the refugees from Gaza.”

Increased emigration from Gaza

Emigration from Gaza – including among recent university graduates, who face the highest unemployment rates in the world – has been on the rise.

It is no secret that Israeli leaders have maximalist designs on all of historic Palestine. Making life unbearable to coerce Palestinians to leave their land is the primary motivation of many of Israel’s policies in the West Bank and Gaza.

But Israeli officials generally don’t admit to it or tell media that government offices are executing such plans.

Human rights groups have long stated that the economic blockade on Gaza is an act of collective punishment, imposed after Hamas took control of internal affairs in the territory in 2007. Israel says it is a security measure.

The International Committee of the Red Cross has affirmed that Israel’s siege is an illegal act of collective punishment.

Critics of the blockade contend that Israel’s siege and repeated military assaults on Gaza are aimed at breaking resistance to the occupation.

Since early 2018, more than 200 Palestinians in Gaza have been killed during Great March of Return protests calling for an end to Israel’s siege. Those demonstrations have also demanded that Palestinian refugees be allowed to exercise their right to return.

Israeli occupation forces have killed more than 100 Palestinians in Gaza outside the context of protests during that same period.

Eight Palestinians killed in Gaza

On Saturday, three Palestinians were killed by Israeli helicopter and tank fire along the northern Gaza-Israel boundary.

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Why Americans Should Support BDS


Demonstrators protest New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s McCarthyite executive order requiring state agencies to divest from organizations that support the Palestinian call to boycott companies profiting from, or cultural or academic institutions complicit in, Israel’s oppression of the Palestinian people, June 9, 2016. (Sipa via AP Images)

Omar Barghouti, The Nation, July 29, 2019

Last Tuesday, the House of Representatives passed a resolution, H. Res. 246, targeting the grassroots, global Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement for Palestinian rights that I helped found in 2005. Sadly, H. Res. 246, which fundamentally mischaracterizes our goals and misrepresents my own personal views, is only the latest attempt by Israel’s supporters in Congress to demonize and suppress our peaceful struggle.

H. Res. 246 is a sweeping condemnation of Americans who advocate for Palestinian rights using BDS tactics. It reinforces other unconstitutional anti-boycott measures, including those passed by some 27 state legislatures, that are reminiscent of “McCarthy era tactics,” according to the American Civil Liberties Union. It also exacerbates the oppressive atmosphere that Palestinians and their supporters already face, further chilling speech critical of Israel at a time when President Donald Trump is publicly smearing members of Congress who speak out in support of Palestinian freedom.

In response to H. Res. 246 and similarly repressive legislative measures, House member Ilhan Omar, joined by Rashida Tlaib, civil rights icon John Lewis, and 12 other co-sponsors, introduced H. Res. 496, which defends “the right to participate in boycotts in pursuit of civil and human rights at home and abroad, as protected by the First Amendment to the Constitution.”

Inspired by the US civil rights and South African anti-apartheid movements, BDS calls for ending Israel’s 1967 military occupation, full equality for Palestinian citizens of Israel, and the UN-stipulated right of Palestinian refugees to return to the homeland they were uprooted from.

BDS categorically opposes all forms of racism, including anti-Semitism. Contrary to the false claim in H. Res. 246, BDS does not target individuals, but rather institutions and corporations that are implicated in Israel’s systematic violations of Palestinian human rights.

H. Res. 246 also includes a specific smear against me that has been pushed by Israel lobby groups like AIPAC by quoting a single, out-of-context sentence from a talk I gave in 2013. The same false assertion is repeated in a similar Senate Resolution, S. Res. 120.

In that talk, I advocated for a single democratic state that recognizes and accepts Jewish Israelis as equal citizens and full partners in building and developing a new shared society, free from all colonial subjugation and racial discrimination and separating church and state. Everyone, including repatriated Palestinian refugees, would be entitled to equal rights regardless of ethnic, religious, gender, sexual, or other identity. Any exclusionary, supremacist “Muslim state,” “Christian state,” or “Jewish state,” I argued, would by definition deny equal rights to citizens of different identities and foreclose the possibility of a true democracy, which are conditions for a just and sustainable peace. The House and Senate resolutions, as well as an AIPAC propaganda clip, remove all that context, intentionally distorting my views.

Regardless, this is my personal opinion, not the BDS movement’s position. As a broad and inclusive human rights movement, BDS does not take a position on the ultimate political solution for Palestinians and Israelis. It includes supporters of both two states and a single democratic state with equal rights for all.

As a human rights defender, I am not only subjected to routine vilification by Israel and its anti-Palestinian supporters. I have also been placed under a de facto and “arbitrary travel ban by Israel,” in the words of Amnesty International, including in 2018, when I was prevented from going to Jordan to accompany my late mother during cancer surgery. In 2016, Israel’s intelligence minister threatened me with “targeted civil elimination,” drawing condemnation from Amnesty. And for the first time ever, last April I was banned from entering the United States, missing my daughter’s wedding and a meeting in Congress. Israel is not merely intensifying its decades-old system of military occupation, apartheid, and ethnic cleansing against Palestinians; it is increasingly outsourcing its repressive tactics to the US administration.

The Nation

Trump is unabashedly supporting and shielding from accountability Israel’s far-right government as it shatters the lives and livelihoods of millions of Palestinians living under occupation and siege in Gaza; facing dispossession and forcible displacement in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem; and denied equal rights in present-day Israel. Just two weeks ago, he escalated his incitement against supporters of Palestinian rights, attacking four new progressive members of Congress, all women of color, telling them to “apologize” to Israel and “go back” to their countries of origin, even though three of them were born in the United States.

Despite all this, Israel’s desperate war on BDS, fought with fabrication, demonization, and intimidation, as exemplified by this newly approved House resolution, is failing. Our hope remains alive as we witness an inspiring shift in public opinion in favor of Palestinian human rights, including in the United States. The ugly reality of Israel’s apartheid regime and its alliances with xenophobic and patently anti-Semitic forces are becoming irreconcilable with liberal and democratic values anywhere.

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I co-founded the BDS movement. Why was I denied entry to the US?

With this denial of entry, Israel appears to have once again enlisted the Trump administration to do its bidding


“Palestinians are now helplessly anticipating a far-right Israeli tsunami that will wipe out whatever rights we have left.” (Photograph: Nasser Nasser/AP)

Omar Barghouti, The Guardian, 16 Apr 2019

Last Wednesday, as I was preparing to depart for the United States for a series of speaking engagements, I was abruptly stopped and prevented from boarding my flight at Ben Gurion airport. The US consulate informed the airline staff that US immigration has banned me from entering the country, despite having a valid visa, without providing a reason.

Given my regular, unhindered travel to the US for years, this ban seems to be an ideologically and politically motivated measure that fits in with Israel’s escalating repression against human rights defenders. Israel’s far-right regime is not merely continuing its decades-old system of military occupation, apartheid and ethnic cleansing against Palestinians, it is increasingly outsourcing its anti-democratic tactics to the US.

As a co-founder of the nonviolent Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement for Palestinian rights, I have been smeared by the Israeli government and banned from travel repeatedly, including in 2018 when I was prevented from going to Jordan to accompany my late mother during cancer surgery. Israel’s intelligence minister threatened me with “targeted civil elimination”, drawing condemnation from Amnesty International. Their de facto and “arbitrary travel ban” against me was recently lifted for three months after Amnesty International’s pressure.

On this US trip, I was scheduled to meet with policymakers and journalists and to address the critical need for cutting US complicity in Israel’s grave violations of Palestinian rights before audiences at New York University, Harvard, a black community bookstore in Philadelphia and the Tzedek Chicago synagogue. Afterwards, I was going to attend my daughter’s wedding in Houston.

I have decided not to miss any of my speaking engagements, joining via video in the middle of my nights, but I cannot possibly compensate the personal loss of missing my daughter’s wedding. I am hurt, but I am far from deterred.

Since Trump took office, he has repeatedly signaled his deep bias in favor of Israel. His Middle East team, Jared Kushner, Jason Greenblatt and David Friedman, with their fervent support for Israel’s illegal settlements and other crimes, must be the most dishonest broker in the history of US “peacemaking”. He has recognized Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem and the Syrian Golan Heights in violation of international law and more than seven decades of official US policy.

Meanwhile, members of Congress and politicians in 27 states have passed laws intended to suppress the voices of Americans who support BDS. The ACLU has condemned these repressive measures as an unconstitutional violation of free speech that is “reminiscent of McCarthy-era loyalty oaths”.

All of this has emboldened Israel’s hardline rightwing government to accelerate its racist, oppressive policies towards the Palestinian people. Over the last year, Israeli soldiers have massacred hundreds and injured thousands of unarmed Palestinian protesters demanding refugee rights and freedom from the open-air prison that Israel has turned Gaza into.

Last summer, Israel’s parliament passed the so-called “Jewish nation-state” law, which constitutionally enshrines an apartheid reality that has existed for many years. And Israel’s government has buried the so-called two-state solution by continuing its relentless theft of Palestinian land for illegal settlements, while at the same time increasing pressure on human rights defenders, particularly BDS advocates.

During the recent election campaign, Netanyahu promised to begin annexing the West Bank and repeatedly incited against Palestinian citizens of Israel, declaring, “Israel is not a state of all its citizens … Israel is the nation state of the Jewish people – and only it.” He will now likely form a government even more extreme and intransigent than the last, which was the most racist in Israel’s history.

Some Palestinians are now helplessly anticipating a far-right Israeli tsunami that will wipe out whatever rights we have left, but many are intensifying popular resistance, including BDS, calling for impactful solidarity and ending international complicity.

Inspired by the South African anti-apartheid and the US civil rights movements, BDS calls for cultural, economic and political pressure on Israel to end its military rule over Palestinian and Syrian territories occupied since 1967, grant equal rights to Palestinian citizens of Israel, and recognize the UN-stipulated right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes of origin, a universal right that applies to all refugees. It is supported by the overwhelming majority of Palestinian society.

Americans have a long and honorable history of using boycotts for social, political and economic justice causes against the Montgomery Bus company, California grape growers, the states of North Carolina and Arizona over anti-LGBT and anti-immigrant laws, respectively, and now against Trump’s racist agenda. Similarly, Palestinians seek to use peaceful economic leverage to achieve our liberation.

With its inclusive, anti-racist principles, BDS rejects all forms of bigotry, and appeals to progressives everywhere. Its tactics have been adopted by a number of US mainline churches, student governments in tens of universities, academic associations and racial and social justice groups, who wish to avoid being complicit in the suffering of Palestinians.

This trend is now being amplified by Congresswomen Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar’s courageous endorsement of BDS and the much wider defense, including by the ACLU and Senators Bernie Sanders and Dianne Feinstein, of the right to boycott Israel to end its human rights violations, as constitutionally protected free speech. All this deeply inspires Palestinians and gives us hope that we can prevail over oppression. Despite the alarming spread of white supremacy in the Trump era, struggles for racial, social, indigenous, economic and environmental justice are growing and connecting with each other.

As Israel shifts steadily to the far right, forging alliances with xenophobic, racist and patently antisemitic forces in the US, Europe,Brazil and elsewhere, and, simultaneously, as the impact of BDS rises, Israel’s popularity is declining worldwide. In this context, US defenders of Israel’s human rights violations have desperately invested massive political and financial resources in the last few years to suppress speech on Palestinian rights. Through intimidation, spying and weaponizing claims of antisemitism, they are trying to keep Israel “on a pedestal”, as Archbishop Desmond Tutu once said, above accountability and beyond censure.

With this denial of entry, Israel appears to have once again enlisted the Trump administration to do its bidding, this time to repress Palestinian, Israeli and international human rights defenders. They wish to deny lawmakers, journalists and ordinary Americans their right to listen first-hand to a Palestinian human rights advocate calling for ending US complicity in Israel’s crimes against our people.

Yet, with the evolving intersectional links connecting the Palestinian struggle with the struggles of communities of color, indigenous Americans, women activists, Jewish millennials, trade unionists, academics, artists, students, LGBTQI groups, anti-war movements and others, we shall prevail. Despite the efforts of Israel’s governments and its supporters in the Trump administration, we shall intensify our common fight against oppression and racism in all its forms through our struggle for freedom, justice, and equality.

Omar Barghouti is a human rights defender and a co-founder of the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement for Palestinian rights.

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