JERUSALEM (AP) — A leader of the international boycott movement against Israel on Tuesday accused Israeli authorities of imposing a travel ban on him as retribution for his political activities.
The travel restrictions come weeks after Israel's interior minister, who oversees immigration policy, was quoted as saying that he would consider revoking residency rights of Omar Barghouti.
In a possible first step, Barghouti said Tuesday that Israel told him last month that it was not renewing a permit that allows him to travel abroad. As a permanent resident of Israel, he does not hold a passport and instead requires special permission to travel in and out of the country.
Barghouti, a Qatari-born Palestinian whose wife is an Arab citizen of Israel, said he has lived legally in Israel since 1994 and never before had a problem renewing his travel permit. He said he does so every two years.
"Refusing to renew my travel document now is therefore clearly political," he said in an email. "It does not just deny me my freedom of movement. It is seen by legal experts as a first step toward revoking my permanent residency, a clearly political and vindictive measure that has no legal basis."
Barghouti is a founder of the international BDS movement, which calls for boycotts, divestment and sanctions against Israel.
BDS supporters say the movement is using nonviolent means to end Israeli occupation, and it has made gains in recent years. U.S. and British academic unions have endorsed boycotts, student governments at universities have made divestment proposals, and a number of churches have sold off shares in businesses seen as profiting from Israel's occupation of the West Bank. The BDS movement also claims responsibility for pressuring some large companies to stop or modify operations in Israel.
Israel says the movement's true goal is to destroy the country. BDS pushes, among other things, for a return of Palestinian refugees to family properties lost in the 1948 war surrounding Israel's creation. Israel says the Palestinian "right of return" would lead to a massive influx of refugees and mean the end of the country as a Jewish state. Israeli officials have identified the BDS movement as a major threat.
The Israeli Interior Ministry said Tuesday that there is evidence that Barghouti's "center of life" is in the West Bank, not Israel, and his residency is under review by the attorney general. Barghouti denied the allegation, saying he spends most of his time with his family in the northern Israeli city of Acre.
In late March, Israel's Interior Minister Aryeh Deri was quoted as telling a conference that he was considering revoking Barghouti's residency.
"I was given 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," Deri was quoted as saying. "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."
The Israeli Justice Ministry confirmed that it was reviewing the case at the request of Deri. It did not say when the review would be completed.