A founder of the Palestinian-led boycott movement against Israel was blocked from entering the United States in what he said was a “politically motivated” move.
Omar Barghouti was traveling to the U.S. for a speaking tour but was not allowed to board his flight from Israel’s Ben Gurion Airport, according to a statement from the BDS movement. Barghouti said he was told his valid U.S. visa was revoked for “immigration reasons.”
Barghouti was planning to meet with journalists and policymakers in Washington, New York City, Philadelphia and Chicago, and attend his daughter’s wedding. “I am hurt but I am not deterred,” he said about missing that ceremony.
“Visa records are confidential under U.S. law. Therefore, we cannot discuss the details of individual visa cases,” State Department spokesman Robert Palladino told reporters.
He also said U.S. law does not “authorize the refusal of visas based solely on political statements or views if those statements or views would be lawful in the United States, no matter how distasteful or objectionable some may find those statements or views.”
Barghouti said in a statement to The Associated Press that the entry ban was “ideologically and politically motivated” and part of Israel’s “escalating repression against Palestinian, Israeli and international human rights defenders.”
Hina Shamsi, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s National Security Project said the move “looks like an ideological exclusion, which is a long-discredited form of government censorship.”
Rep. Lee Zeldin, R-N.Y., applauded the U.S. move and described Barghouti as “anti-Israel and anti-Semitic.”
The movement advocates boycotts, divestment and sanctions against Israeli businesses, universities and cultural institutions. Comparing itself to the past anti-apartheid movement in South Africa, movement supporters say it is using nonviolent means to resist unjust policies toward Palestinians.
The movement has made significant gains in recent years, particularly among foreign artists and university students.
Israel says the movement masks its motives to delegitimize or destroy the Jewish state. Israel enacted a law in 2017 banning any foreigner from entering the country if that person “knowingly issues a public call for boycotting Israel.”
The Trump administration has taken several steps to demonstrate strong support for Israel, most recently recognizing Israel’s claim to the Golan Heights. Support for Israel has become an increasingly politically charged issue in the early stages of the 2020 election as Republicans seek to woo Jewish voters away from the Democratic Party.