Drop the Charges and End the Tarnishing Campaign
April 3, 2017 — The Israel Palestine Mission Network of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) stands in full support of Dr. Omar Barghouti, Co-Founder of the global BDS movement for justice in Palestine, as he faces unjust persecution by Israeli authorities, in an attempt to silence him. He has been placed under a gag order and travel ban and will not be able to travel to Yale University this month to receive the Gandhi Peace Prize (along with Ralph Nader) unless the ban is lifted.
Dr. Barghouti is a long-time friend of IPMN. His non-violent witness through calls for boycott, divestment and sanctions is in line with the longstanding witness to peacemaking by the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) which reaffirmed as recently as the 222nd General Assembly in June 2016 that nonviolent resistance is a “historic means by which the Church… has engaged in nonviolent witness for the sake of identifying and calling a stop to forms of human oppression in American society and throughout the world.”
Further, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) affirmed “that such [non-violent] tools have historically included calls for boycott, decisions to divest from companies that profit from violence and oppression, and the establishment of sanctions to be applied by governments and other entities towards states and other organizations that may intentionally or unintentionally support acts of violence and oppression thrust upon innocent people.”
In June 2016, with the BDS movement mounting consecutive successes against Israeli oppression and expanding colonial settlements, the government of Israel set up a “dirty tricks” unit intended to find and “spread dirt” on BDS groups. As reported by Israel’s Ha’aretz, “In the absence of persuasive arguments to counter boycott calls, much less any plan to change its policies,” Israel has embarked on a tarnishing campaign with an aim to stop Omar Barghouti and his leadership in the Palestine solidarity movement.
IPMN urges all who support justice for Palestine and freedom for Palestinians to sign the petition calling Israel to drop the charges, and allow Omar Barghouti to travel out of Israel to receive the Gandhi Peace Award.
Read BNC Statement on Israel’s Ongoing Campaign to Silence Omar Barghouti & Repress BDS.
Message from IPMN Moderator regarding Omar Barghouti gag order and travel ban:
In case you hadn’t heard, Omar Barghouti, co-founder of the BDS Movement, is currently under a gag order and travel ban. Israeli authorities barged into his home on March 19 and interrogated both he and his wife Sara for 16 hours on the first day, and continued the interrogations for 4 days. Here are Omar’s own words in his recent “Message of Gratitude and Hope” written to solidarity activists and supporters around the world:
“Nothing empowers human rights defenders facing political persecution like the warm feeling that there is a whole community of activists and people of conscience standing with them and carrying on the struggle no matter what… Many of you have asked how best you can support me to face this latest persecution. My answer is, without hesitation … more BDS!” [boycott, divestment, sanctions; i.e., economic actions].
As you know, Omar Barghouti has been a friend of IPMN for many years. He has spoken to us at our annual meeting, and has had many conversations with our leadership about our approach to BDS. Sometimes founders and leaders of large movements insist that affiliate groups sign on to a top-down master plan. Not so with Omar. He has spoken to us many times about the value of grassroots organizing because he knows that is where speaking truth in the face of power begins and is most effective. Omar fully supported our limited (comparatively speaking) approach of getting the PC(USA) to boycott settlement products and divest from companies profiting in the occupation. He always knew that we know best our own context, and encouraged us to do everything in our power to achieve our goals within our own framework. In the times I have heard Omar speak, he has never told us that we had to embrace full cultural and academic boycott. After divestment passed in June 2014, Omar told our network in October that we did BDS “Presbyterian style.”
We recognize that even within our network, there are different views on full BDS or a limited version. Our network sought to accomplish initial steps with something on which we could all agree, such as a boycott of all settlement goods. Then, over several General Assemblies, we brought overtures to bring about all three prongs of the BDS call: boycott, divestment and sanctions. Boycott of all settlement goods became PC(USA) policy in 2012, and Divestment from the Occupation in 2014. Earlier in 2010, we had voted to call on congress to condition military aid to Israel on following US laws that are in place. This was actually a call for sanctions without the use of the word “sanction.” As in the fight against South African apartheid, we Presbyterians led the way with our divestment action, which was one of the shots heard around the world. Omar Barghouti’s wisdom and leadership bore itself out; we did BDS our way and other denominations followed our lead.
Since achieving what we worked so hard to accomplish for over a decade, IPMN is now at an important place in regard to its future. Our basic question is: Now that we have accomplished BDS for General Assembly policy, what’s next? Omar offers us some key ideas, which echo some of the things many of us have been talking about for many months now:
“We need to expand, mainstream and build on our many inspiring BDS campaigns…as the most effective way to respond to the new McCarthyism designed by Israel’s regime of occupation, settler-colonialism and apartheid… Further growing our movement for freedom, justice and equality is the answer… Countering their racism, hate, black lists and ugly colonial repression with our inclusiveness, categorical rejection of all forms of racism, and our boundless passion for freedom and justice is the answer. Further strengthening our principled intersectional alliances with movements for indigenous, racial, economic, social, gender, climate and other forms of justice is our loudest response to their xenophobic, far-right, fascist-leaning agenda and their draconian laws.”
Omar Barghouti has never been one to mince words, and I am personally grateful for that because his voice from Palestine is crystal clear. I recently had the opportunity to be with Omar this past February when he came to Beit Sahour to speak to the JAI Olive Tree Planting Campaign and our travel group. There were a number of people from the congregation I serve who were on this trip for the first time. One day we were even kicked off a particular field we were planting in, and even though the group was still learning about the non-violent movement, they caught on quickly about the big picture.
In Omar’s presentation the night he was with us, he did a marvelous job bringing this international gathering up to speed about the BDS Movement, and how it was inspired by the struggle against South African apartheid. He clearly spelled out the movement’s non-violent posture. On these trips, I look at the faces of the folks from my congregation when the subject of BDS comes up as a non-violent response to oppression. I often see in their eyes how well this resonates with their understandings of their own Christian faith. I have noticed that once that light goes on, Israeli hasbara about BDS being a violent, terrorist movement “dedicated to the destruction of Israel” simply makes no sense. Seeing is believing and we thank Omar Barghouti for turning on this light for us.
At IPMN we have no illusions about the “tarnishing campaign” by the Israeli government towards activist individuals and organizations. We have observed these actions over the last decade, and are now seeing it play out at levels we have never seen before. The recent and ongoing harassment of Omar Barghouti is a clear sign, as are the attempts to ban even Jewish Palestine activists from entering Israel, that BDS is working. Truth always wins, even if it does not always operate on our time table.
Barghouti himself gives the best example in his recent epistle to us: “Their campaign of repression has, to an extent, backfired. By preventing me from traveling to the U.S. to receive the Gandhi Peace Award, jointly with Ralph Nader, Israel’s regime has inadvertently increased the publicity around the world.”
Let that irony sink in: Omar Barghouti, co-founder of a global campaign of non-violent resistance to oppression and colonization, has been refused the right to travel to receive The Gandhi Peace Award. Any of us who stand for justice in Palestine, and justice on many other fronts in a world increasingly dominated by oligarchy and plutocracy, need to stand with Omar Barghouti in his struggle for liberation and equality for his people.
Please sign the petition calling for Omar Barghouti’s freedom to travel to receive the Gandhi Peace Award.