The founder of an anti-Israel boycott movement said Saturday that the Israeli authorities’ investigation into his suspected tax evasion is based on “vicious lies.”
Omar Barghouti, a Palestinian who holds Israeli residency, said he is not allowed to delve into details of his case because of a gag order. But he insists the probe is politically motivated.
The Israel Tax Authority says Barghouti is suspected of evading taxes between 2007 and 2017 on $700,000 in income from managing a cash machine business, and on income from lectures around the world and royalties on a book.
Barghouti is a founder of the BDS movement advocating boycotts, divestment and sanctions against Israel. Supporters say BDS is a nonviolent movement for Palestinian independence, but Israel says it aims to delegitimize the Jewish state.
Israeli authorities refused to renew Barghouti’s travel documents last year, effectively making it impossible for him to ravel.
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 in late March, after Barghouti was arrested, said the investigation was part of a wider campaign against him.
“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,” the 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.
Barghouti was due to travel to the United States to receive an award at Yale University, the BDS 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. Last 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.