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BDS Co-Founder Omar Barghouti Arrested By Israel For Tax Evasion

posted on: Mar 24, 2017

BY: Julia Jahanpour/Contributing Writer

Co-founder of the Boycott Divestment Sanctions (BDS) movement, Omar Barghouti, was arrested Sunday for alleged tax evasion in the amount of $700,000. This income was supposedly hidden from the Israeli government and coming from his other business ventures, including his book, Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions: The Global Struggle for Palestinian Rights, public speaking fees, and his business selling ATM machines in the West Bank.

The Boycott Divestment Sanctions National Committee (BNC) said that Barghouti has been subjected to unreasonable interrogation and accused of false tax evasion. He was held for 16 hours after being arrested, and has been interrogated daily since then, according to the BNC.

Other Israeli officials want to revoke Barghouti’s residency in Acre, Israel, saying he only earned it through marriage of his Palestinian wife. He was born in Qatar and travels frequently to other countries to support the BDS cause internationally.

“I received information that his life is in Ramallah and he is using his resident status to travel all over the world in order to operate against Israel in the most serious manner,” said Israeli Interior Minister Aryeh Dery.

“He was given rights similar to those of a citizen and he took advantage of our enlightened state to portray us as the most horrible state in the world,” Dery added.

The BNC is fighting back against the allegations, saying the arrest was part of Israel’s “systematic efforts to criminalize the BDS movement, intimidate activists and stop free speech.”

Amnesty International expressed its concern for the “safety and liberty of Palestinian human rights defender Omar Barghouti, and other boycott, divestment and sanctions activists, following calls alluding to threats, including of physical harm and deprivation of basic rights, made by Israeli ministers.”

The tax evasion allegation and investigations take place just a month before Barghouti is scheduled to receive the Gandhi Peace Award in the US. He currently is subjected to a travel ban enforced by the Israeli government, being told he is only out on bail. The fate of his freedom is still unfolding.