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.

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Ahmed Abu Artema on the Palestinian Great March of Return

“The only possible option for them is to continue knocking on the walls of their prison with the hope that the world will hear them.”


Ahmed Abu Artema has organized the Great March of Return in protest of Israel’s blockade on Gaza. (Hosney Salah)

Esty Dinur, The Progressive, April 11, 2019

Ahmed Abu Artema is a Palestinian writer and activist. A resident of Rafah in the Gaza Strip, his family was expelled from its home in the Ramle district in 1948. A follower of nonviolent resistance, he is one of the main organizers of the Great March of Return, which has taken place every Friday for more than a year at the separation wall with Israel. A heavy-handed Israeli response has caused hundreds of Palestinian deaths and many more people injured.

A slight man with sad eyes, married and father of four, Abu Atrema was the featured speaker in a nationwide tour in March organized by the American Friends Service Committee and titled “Hashtag to Headlines: How the Gaza Great March of Return Challenged the World.”

I interviewed him recently for my radio show in Madison, Wisconsin, and followed up with emailed questions, which were translated from Arabic by Jehad Abusalim.

Q: What is the Great March of Return about?

Ahmed Abu Artema: The Great March of Return represents the clearest expression of the will of the displaced Palestinian refugees: They want to go home. In 1948, Zionist militias expelled more than 750,000 Palestinians from their cities and villages to pave the way for the establishment of the state of Israel. These forces believed that, with time, the refugees would adapt to the reality of refugeehood and would forget their homeland.

But the message of the Great March of Return clearly says that the Right of Return is to be negotiated, and that new generations of refugees who were born in the refugee camps in exile still adhere to their inalienable right to return to their homes and property.

Q: How did the march come into being and what has happened since?

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April 22, 2019
71 Years Without a Country

The 2019 North America Nakba Tour comes to Madison

UW-Madison Red Gym, On Wisconsin room
716 Langdon St
7:00 pm – 9:00 pm

Mariam Fathalla was just 18 years old in 1948 when her 4,000 year old village was leveled and she was forced to flee Palestine along with hundreds of thousands of others to make way for the establishment of the State of Israel. For the past 71 years she has lived in crowded, makeshift refugee camps in Lebanon. Now an 89-year-old great-grandmother, she has seen five Israeli invasions of Lebanon, as well as the 1976 Tel al-Zaatar massacre that killed more than 2000 refugees.

Don’t miss this extraordinary opportunity to hear Mariam’s eye-witness story and learn the true story of the event that Palestinians call the Nakba (catastrophe). She will be joined by 24-year-old Palestinian journalist and translator Amena ElAskhar, herself the great-granddaughter of Nakba survivors.

Co-sponsored by Madison-Rafah Sister City Project, UW-Madison Students for Justice in Palestine, and WUD Society and Politics. Welcomed by WORT Radio.



Amena ElAshkar will be a guest on WORT Radio’s Morning Buzz with host Jan Miyasaki on Wednesday, April 17 between 8 and 8:30 am. Tune in at 89.9 FM or listen live online.

Amena ElAshkar will be a guest on WORT Radio’s A Public Affair with host Esty Dinur on Friday, April 19 from 12:40 to 1:00 pm. Tune in at 89.9 FM or listen live online.


More Information

First Anniversary of the Great March of Return and Breaking the Siege

Israeli Forces Kill 3 Palestinian Civilians and Wound 364

Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR), Ref: 50/2019, March 30, 2019

On Saturday, 30 March 2019, in excessive use of force against the peaceful protesters in the 1st anniversary of the Great March of Return and Breaking the Siege, Israeli forces killed 3 Palestinian civilians, including a child, and wounded 364 others, including 74 children, 12 women, 7 journalists, and 6 paramedics. The injury of seven of them was reported serious.

It should be mentioned that before the protests started today, the Israeli forces deployed military reinforcements along the border fence with the Gaza Strip, and set up more fortified sniper positions. This indicates an Israeli intention to use excessive force against the demonstrators.

Israeli media reported that the Israeli forces had deployed three military brigades and an artillery battalion, and announced the deployment of 200 snipers along the border with the Gaza Strip. This is reminiscent of similar preparations on the eve of the outbreak of Return March a year ago, preceded with systematic incitement by the Israeli political and military echelons and giving direct orders to target the peaceful demonstrators, especially those who were described as “inciters.”

The Israeli military reinforcements came despite the prior declaration of the Supreme National Authority of Great March of Return and Breaking the Siege that the demonstrations will be peaceful. On Thursday, the Supreme National Authority of Great March of Return and Breaking the Siege confirmed in a press conference the peaceful and popular nature of all activities in the Earth Day demonstrations in order to block the Israeli authorities’ plans, which intend to shed the blood of peaceful demonstrators.

According to observations by PCHR’s fieldworkers, the Israeli forces who stationed in prone positions and in military jeeps along the fence with Israel continued to use excessive force against the demonstrators by opening fire and firing teargas canisters at them. As a result, dozens of the demonstrators were hit with bullets and teargas canisters without posing any imminent threat or danger to the life of soldiers.

Moreover, PCHR’s fieldworkers said that the Israeli forces increased the sniper-positioning points and raised the sand berms on which the snipers position, enabling them to see clearly and completely the area ,where the protestors spread, and deep into the Return encampment.

PCHR’s fieldworkers monitored the deployment of hundreds of police officers to control the demonstrations and prevent the demonstrators from approaching the border fence. The demonstrations were as always fully peaceful and some protesters in very limited cases approached the border fence and attempted to threw stones at the fence.

On Saturday, 30 March 2019, the incidents were as follows:

At approximately 07:00, Israeli forces opened fire at a group of Palestinian young men who approached the border fence, adjacent to the Return camp in eastern Gaza Strip. As a result, Mohamed Jehad Jawdat Sa’d (20), from al-Shuja’iyia neighborhood, was hit with a live bullet to the chest and his death was declared after half an hour of his arrival at al-Shifa Hospital. It should be noted that Mohamed died before the actual start of the demonstrations to commemorate the 1st anniversary of the Great March of Return and Breaking and the 43rd anniversary of the Earth Day, which the Supreme National Commission has called “the millions of land and return.”

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April 22, 2019
North America Nakba Tour

UW-Madison Campus
(time & location to follow)

MRSCP and UW Students for Justice in Palestine will be co-sponsoring a Madison appearance of the 2019 North America Nakba Tour featuring Um Akram (Mariam Fathalla), an 89-year-old Palestinian refugee, and Amena ElAshkar, a fourth-generation refugee, both from Lebanon.

2019 North America Nakba Tour

71 Years Without a Country: Stateless Palestinians from Lebanon

In some ways time stopped in 1948 for the Palestinian refugees in Lebanon. Many of them and their descendants are living in the same refugee camps created when the Zionist forces expelled them from Palestine in that year.

Israel expelled most of the majority Palestinian population in 1948, and has prevented them from returning to their homes ever since. Hundreds of towns and villages were leveled to the ground, a crime that Palestinians call al-Nakba (the Catastrophe). But Israel did not stop there. It repeatedly attacked Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, killing thousands more.

Suddenly stateless and without the benefits of citizenship, Palestinian refugees were extremely vulnerable and had very few rights starting in 1948. 71 years later, not much has changed for Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, who continue to be denied basic civil rights as well as their most fundamental right: to return to their homeland.

These Palestinians have different experiences than other Palestinians, even as they share a common struggle and identity. They are not living under Israeli occupation. Israel does not allow them to visit their homes, much less live there. As exiles, they have a different perspective from Palestinians in Jerusalem, the West Bank, Gaza and the part of Palestine that became Israel.

Maia Project Update

Latest Maia Water Filters in Rafah (28 Feb 2019)
from Josie Shields-Stromsness, Middle East Children’s Alliance

  • Drinking Clean Water
  • Drinking Clean Water
  • School Yard
  • School Yard
  • Tank & Filter Unit Delivery
  • Tank and Filter Unit Delivery
  • Units Ready for Transport
  • Filter Unit Fabrication
  • Filter Unit Fabrication
  • Control Panel
  • Control Panel
  • Water Storage Tank
  • Filter Unit Housing

maia bro for online


Contribute online at MECAforPeace.org/Madison

For more information, contact
• Congregation Shaarei Shamayim: Shamayim.org
• First Unitarian Society/Madison: FUSMadison.org
• Jewish Voice for Peace/Madison: Facebook.com/JVPMadison

March 7, 2019
Tasting the Sky: A Palestinian Childhood


Goodman Public Library
2222 S Park St, Madison
6:30 pm

Peace and Justice Book Club discusses Tasting the Sky: A Palestinian Childhood by Ibtisam Barakat.

In this memoir set in Ramallah following the 1967 Six-Day War, Barakat captures what it is like to be a child whose world is shattered by war – fear and confusion as bombs explode near her home and she is separated from her family; the harshness of life in the Middle East as a Palestinian refugee; and her unexpected joy when she discovers Alef, the first letter of the Arabic alphabet.

Hosted by the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) – Madison Chapter. Note: You don’t have to have read or finished the book to attend. Info? #608-609-7961