Israel blocks Omar Barghouti from travel for mom’s surgery

Omar Barghouti with his mother Wafieh Barghouti.

Israel is preventing Omar Barghouti from traveling to Jordan to be with his mother for cancer surgery.

Barghouti believes that he is being punished for his leadership role in the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement for Palestinian rights, “given the well-established record of the Israeli regime’s all-out war” on the nonviolent campaign.

The human rights defender’s mother, Wafieh Barghouti, 75, was diagnosed with cancer several months ago. “[She] has been fighting it ever since with bravery, dignity and lots of her typically stinging political commentary on Facebook,” Barghouti stated on Thursday.

Israel has publicly threatened Barghouti over his role as a leader in the BDS movement.

In May 2016, Israel effectively imposed a travel ban on him by refusing to renew his residency document.

That came after interior minister Aryeh Deri had explicitly threatened to revoke Barghouti’s residency on the grounds that “he is using his resident status to travel all over the world in order to operate against Israel in the most serious manner.”

Intelligence minister Yisrael Katz called for a campaign of “targeted civil eliminations” of BDS leaders with the help of Israeli intelligence. The Hebrew term Katz used was similar to the Israeli term for “targeted assassinations.”

Gilad Erdan, the Israeli minister in charge of combating BDS, has said that activists should “pay the price” for their work.

Amnesty International condemned these threats, saying they have “created an increasingly dangerous environment” for human rights defenders in Israel and the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip.

In April last year, Israel subjected Barghouti to days of interrogation and a gag order as part of what he called a “McCarthyite witch hunt” against him and the BDS movement.

Court order

According to Barghouti, he has been able to travel to Amman with his mother for several chemotherapy sessions, but each time his lawyers have had to apply for a court order to temporarily suspend the travel ban. But now he’s unable to go for her upcoming surgery.

“In response to a​n​​ urgent request from my lawyers​ – that explained my mother’s upcoming surgery and the need for me to be with her​ – an Israeli court temporarily suspended the travel ban from 2 January to 16 January 2018,” Barghouti stated.

Israel’s ministry of interior, however, has failed to renew his travel document for three weeks despite the court order, he said.

Barghouti added that the threats and restrictions imposed on him “all pale in comparison with the war crimes and crimes against humanity (including apartheid) perpetrated by Israel’s regime of oppression against millions of Palestinians.”

He pointed to the jailing of teenager Ahed Tamimi, the slaying of disabled protester Ibrahim Abu Thurayya, ongoing colonization and ethnic cleansing, and the siege on Gaza – which also systematically obstructs cancer care for Palestinians.

Time for appeasement is over

“Mother, forgive me, I shall not be physically with you in your testing time,” Barghouti stated. “Ours is an insignificant sacrifice when compared to our people’s many heartaching sacrifices.”

Barghouti affirmed that Israel’s “intimidation and bullying will never deter me from doing what’s right – continuing my modest contribution to my people’s struggle for liberation.”

To those who want to help, for example by sending letters to Israeli authorities, Barghouti stated: “Nothing from the outside can pressure Israel’s regime of occupation and apartheid like BDS. The time of appeasement and groveling appeals to them to respect our rights must come to an end.”

He concluded: “To help lift Israel’s boots off of our necks, I call for more creative, strategic and sustained BDS campaigns, leading to effective international sanctions similar to those imposed on apartheid South Africa. Only then can justice prevail.”