Israel boycott campaign condemns ‘repression’ after leader’s arrest
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Israel boycott campaign condemns ‘repression’ after leader’s arrest

BDS says tax fraud probe against Omar Barghouti part of a 'futile' Israeli attempt to hinder movement's activities

BDS activist Omar Barghouti at a pro-boycott rally in Ramallah, February 2016. (YouTube screen capture)
BDS activist Omar Barghouti at a pro-boycott rally in Ramallah, February 2016. (YouTube screen capture)

A campaign advocating a boycott of Israel condemned Wednesday what it called state “repression” after one of its top officials was arrested over alleged tax fraud.

Qatari-born Palestinian Omar Barghouti, a leader in the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, which advocates a boycott of Israel, was arrested on Monday on suspicion of not reporting $700,000 in income over the last decade, a tax authority statement said.

Israeli authorities refused to renew Barghouti’s travel documents last year, effectively meaning he would be unable to travel.

Israeli ministers have said they are considering revoking Barghouti’s residency status. Barghouti is married to an Israeli-Arab woman, thereby gaining permanent residency status in the Jewish state. He studied at Tel Aviv University, where he earned a philosophy degree.

A BDS statement said the arrest was part of a wider campaign against Barghouti.

“After the effective travel ban imposed on him proved futile in stopping his human rights work, the Israeli government has resorted to fabricating a case related to Omar’s alleged income outside of Israel,” a statement said.

A statement from the tax authorities said Barghouti was the manager of a company called National Computing Resources registered in Ramallah.

“The suspect did not report approximately US $700,000 in income between 2007 and 2017; in order to conceal his criminal activity he deposited the income in a bank in Ramallah,” it said.

A Palestinian woman walks by a sign calling to boycott Israel in the West Bank city of Bethlehem on February 11, 2015. (Miriam Alster/Flash 90)
A Palestinian woman walks by a sign calling to boycott Israel in the West Bank city of Bethlehem on February 11, 2015. (Miriam Alster/Flash 90)

Barghouti was due to travel to the United States to receive an award at Yale University, the statement said, but that would no longer be possible.

“No matter what extreme measures of repression Israel wields… it cannot stop this movement for human rights,” the statement added.

Israel says it sees BDS as a major threat and accuses it of anti-Semitism — a claim the group denies. Earlier this month, the Israeli Knesset passed a law banning entry to foreigners who support BDS.

The BDS movement pushes for boycotts of Israeli products and institutions, divestment from companies and institutions “complicit” in the violation of Palestinian rights (through investments in Israel), and sanctions against Israel, such as pushing for the rejection of its membership in international forums.

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