Palestinian BDS activists under threat from Israel

13 April 2016 - 1:30pm

War on Want is concerned for the safety of Omar Barghouti, a prominent Palestinian human rights defender, an outspoken advocate of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign, and a patron of War on Want.

The heightened concern follows threats made against Barghouti and other BDS activists by Israeli government ministers, as detailed in an Amnesty International report excerpted here:

"Amnesty International is concerned for the safety and liberty of Palestinian human rights defender Omar Barghouti, and other Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) activists, following calls alluding to threats, including of physical harm and deprivation of basic rights, made by Israeli ministers at an anti-Boycott Divestment and Sanction conference in Jerusalem on March 28, 2016. Barghouti is a founding member and a prominent spokesperson of the BDS movement. He campaigns to hold Israel accountable for human rights and other international law violations and advocates for the use of non-violent means in doing so. He was personally attacked in comments and statements by conference participants including ministers, including by describing him as a threat who should be stopped.

An especially alarming statement came from Israeli Minister of Transport, Intelligence and Atomic Energy Yisrael Katz who called on Israel to engage in “targeted civil eliminations” of BDS leaders with the help of Israeli intelligence. The term alludes to “targeted assassinations” which is used to describe Israel’s policy of targeting members of Palestinian armed groups. Other ministers including Gilad Erdan the Minister of Public Security, Strategic Affairs and Minister of Information described BDS activists and leaders as threats and called for them to “pay the price” for their work following this with a clarification that he does not mean “physical harm.”

Barghouti was attacked by Ariah Deri, the Minister of Interior, who said he is considering revoking Barghouti’s permanent residency in Israel and depriving him from the right to travel freely.  Barghouti has told Amnesty International that he is gravely concerned about his safety and that of his family.

Government ministers and other government officials have a particular responsibility to consider carefully the adverse consequences that can arise from portraying human rights defenders as security threats for carrying out their peaceful and legitimate work. Such public statements will have strong and dangerous resonance in Israel/OPT, particularly given the increasingly perilous environment in which human rights defenders there are working, under constant threats and attacks by the state and by settlers and other extreme right wing activists.

This is not the first time that Barghouti has faced threats and intimidation, but these statements have been the most serious to have come from government officials. Ministers have a responsibility to uphold human rights and should avoid making inflammatory public remarks against Barghouti and other HRDs. And they should withdraw threat to arbitrarily restrict his freedom of movement and cancel his permanent residency In Israel."

War on Want is also concerned for the safety of others mentioned in the Amnesty report, including the staff of the prominent Palestinian human rights organisation Al-Haq:

"Al-Haq is one of the most prominent and respected of Palestinian human rights NGOs. In recent months, it has been the target – along with other Palestinian NGOs – of a sustained campaign attempting to undermine its work through the use of anonymous phone calls and emails. In February and March 2016, a staff member of Al-Haq and its director were subjected to a number of death threats. These are directly connected to the organization’s work with the International Criminal Court in The Hague. The right of organizations to work with the International Criminal Court and promote accountability must be respected, and the relevant authorities must investigate and bring to justice those who have issued these egregious threats."   

The UK government must urgently take action on this matter. Please email the Foreign and Commonwealth Office ( and ask Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond to publicly denounce Israel's intimidation of Palestinian human rights defenders and BDS activists and demand that the FCO take measures to secure their safety.

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