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Greetings,
 
In case you hadn’t heard, Omar Barghouti, co-founder of the BDS Movement, is currently under a gag order and travel ban. Israeli authorities barged into his home on March 19 and interrogated both he and his wife Sara for 16 hours on the first day, and continued the interrogations for 4 days. Here are Omar’s own words in his recent “Message of Gratitude and Hope” sent to solidarity activists and supporters around the world:
 
“Nothing empowers human rights defenders facing political persecution like the warm feeling that there is a whole community of activists and people of conscience standing with them and carrying on the struggle no matter what… Many of you have asked how best you can support me to face this latest persecution.  My answer is, without hesitation … more BDS!” [boycott, divestment, sanctions; i.e., economic actions].
 
As you know, Omar Barghouti has been a friend of IPMN for many years. He has spoken to us at our annual meeting, and has had many conversations with our leadership about our approach to BDS. Sometimes founders and leaders of large movements insist that affiliate groups sign on to a top-down master plan. Not so with Omar. He has spoken to us many times about the value of grassroots organizing because he knows that is where speaking truth in the face of power begins and is most effective. Omar fully supported our limited (comparatively speaking) approach of getting the PC(USA) to boycott settlement products and divest from companies profiting in the occupation.  He always knew that we know best our own context, and encouraged us to do everything in our power to achieve our goals within our own framework. In the times I have heard Omar speak, he has never told us that we had to embrace full cultural and academic boycott. After divestment passed in June 2014, Omar told our network in October that we did BDS “Presbyterian style.”
 
We recognize that even within our network, there are different views on full BDS or a limited version.  Our network sought to accomplish initial steps with something on which we could all agree, such as a boycott of all settlement goods.  Then, over several General Assemblies, we brought overtures to bring about all three prongs of the BDS call: boycott, divestment and sanctions. Boycott of all settlement goods became PC(USA) policy in 2012, and Divestment from the Occupation in 2014. Earlier in 2010, we had voted to call on congress to condition military aid to Israel on following US laws that are in place. This was actually a call for sanctions without the use of the word “sanction.” As in the fight against South African apartheid, we Presbyterians led the way with our divestment action, which was one of the shots heard around the world. Omar Barghouti’s wisdom and leadership bore itself out; we did BDS our way and other denominations followed our lead.
 
Since achieving what we worked so hard to accomplish for over a decade, IPMN is now at an important place in regard to its future. Our basic question is:  Now that we have accomplished BDS for General Assembly policy, what’s next?  Omar offers us some key ideas, which echo some of the things many of us have been talking about for many months now: 
 
“We need to expand, mainstream and build on our many inspiring BDS campaigns…as the most effective way to respond to the new McCarthyism designed by Israel’s regime of occupation, settler-colonialism and apartheid…  Further growing our movement for freedom, justice and equality is the answer…  Countering their racism, hate, black lists and ugly colonial repression with our inclusiveness, categorical rejection of all forms of racism, and our boundless passion for freedom and justice is the answer.  Further strengthening our principled intersectional alliances with movements for indigenous, racial, economic, social, gender, climate and other forms of justice is our loudest response to their xenophobic, far-right, fascist-leaning agenda and their draconian laws.”
 
Omar Barghouti has never been one to mince words, and I am personally grateful for that because his voice from Palestine is crystal clear. I recently had the opportunity to be with Omar this past February when he came to Beit Sahour to speak to the JAI Olive Tree Planting Campaign and our travel group. There were a number of people from the congregation I serve who were on this trip for the first time. One day we were even kicked off a particular field we were planting in, and even though the group was still learning about the non-violent movement, they caught on quickly about the big picture.  
 
In Omar’s presentation the night he was with us, he did a marvelous job bringing this international gathering up to speed about the BDS Movement, and how it was inspired by the struggle against South African apartheid. He clearly spelled out the movement’s non-violent posture.  On these trips, I look at the faces of the folks from my congregation when the subject of BDS comes up as a non-violent response to oppression. I often see in their eyes how well this resonates with their understandings of their own Christian faith. I have noticed that once that light goes on, Israeli hasbara about BDS being a violent, terrorist movement “dedicated to the destruction of Israel” simply makes no sense. Seeing is believing and we thank Omar Barghouti for turning on this light for us.
 
At IPMN we have no illusions about the “tarnishing campaign” by the Israeli government towards activist individuals and organizations. We have observed these actions over the last decade, and are now seeing it play out at levels we have never seen before. The recent and ongoing harassment of Omar Barghouti is a clear sign, as are the attempts to ban even Jewish Palestine activists from entering Israel, that BDS is working. Truth always wins, even if it does not always operate on our time table.
 
Barghouti himself gives the best example in his recent epistle to us: “Their campaign of repression has, to an extent, backfired.  By preventing me from traveling to the U.S. to receive the Gandhi Peace Award, jointly with Ralph Nader, Israel’s regime has inadvertently increased the publicity around the world.”
 
Let that irony sink in: Omar Barghouti, co-founder of a global campaign of non-violent resistance to oppression and colonization, has been refused the right to travel to receive The Gandhi Peace Award.   Any of us who stand for justice in Palestine, and justice on many other fronts in a world increasingly dominated by oligarchy and plutocracy, need to stand with Omar Barghouti in his struggle for liberation and equality for his people.
 
Please sign the petition calling for his freedom and join our call for justice.
 
Peace and Grace,
 
Jeffrey DeYoe, Moderator
Israel Palestine Mission Network
of the Presbyterian Church (USA)  
 
 
Read March 22 BNC Statement on Israel’s Ongoing Campaign to Silence Omar Barghouti & Repress BDS.
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