On 6 October 2019, Israeli Interior Minister Arye Deri announced that he is working towards revoking the residency status of Palestinian resident and human rights defender Omar Barghouti. The Israeli Interior Minister has “instructed the legal department of the Population, Immigration and Borders Authority to prepare the legal framework to revoke Barghouti’s resident status,” placing him at imminent threat of deportation. Prior to this announcement, Israel’s Attorney-General, Dina Zilber, confirmed that the Minister of the Interior has the prerogative to revoke the residency status of a person who is accused of ‘breaching allegiance’ to Israel. Barghouti is a resident of Israel, a status he received in 1994, following a process of family unification with his wife who is a Palestinian citizen of Israel.
According to the Interior Minister’s announcement, he plans to act quickly to revoke Barghouti’s resident status, because “[h]e is a person who is doing everything to hurt the country, and therefore, he cannot enjoy the privilege of being a resident of Israel.” As a Palestinian human rights defender and co-founder of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) Movement, Omar Barghouti has been targeted by Israel for his calls for freedom, justice, and equality for the Palestinian people in accordance with international law. Accordingly, Barghouti’s threatened residency revocation amounts to a clear assault on his right to freedom of expression, including his work as a human rights defender and his calls for accountability for Israel’s widespread and systematic human rights violations against the Palestinian people.
The statement made by Interior Minister Deri, dated 6 October 2019, is only the latest manifestation of Israel’s State-led repression against Omar Barghouti for his human rights work. To date, several Israeli ministers, including Deri, have targeted Barghouti, frequently delaying the renewal of his travel document, which in effect means banning him from travel, threatening his right to family life and unity by calling for the revocation of his residency status, and making statements containing threats to his life and personal safety. Barghouti’s threatened residency revocation comes in light of an ongoing and systematic effort led by the Israeli Government to create a coercive environment designed to silence and undermine the work of human rights defenders and activists promoting the rights of the Palestinian people and challenging Israel’s widespread violations and suspected crimes. It is within this context that the Israeli authorities have increasingly resorted to smear and de-legitimisation campaigns against human rights defenders, activists, and civil society organisations advocating for the rights of Palestinians and calling for justice and accountability.
In addition, Israel’s practice of punitive residency revocation on the basis of so-called ‘breach of allegiance’ to the State, has been used as a tool to suppress Palestinians’ activism and to restrict their right to freedom of expression when challenging Israel’s systematic violations of international law. On 17 October 2017, in response to a request based on the Freedom of Information Act, the Israeli Interior Ministry acknowledged it had revoked the residency status of 13 Palestinians on the basis of ‘breach of allegiance’ to Israel. This overbroad criterion could be widely applied to Palestinians voicing opposition to the Israeli authorities in their exercise of their fundamental right to freedom of expression. Israel’s policy of silencing opposition through threatened deportations and punitive residency revocation stands in clear violation of international human rights standards and treaties, which Israel is bound to respect, protect, and fulfill towards the Palestinian people, in particular the right to freedom of expression and to freedom of movement and residence, including to leave one’s country and to return.
In light of the above, the undersigned organisations call on the international community to:
1. Act immediately to prevent the revocation of Omar Barghouti’s residency status on the basis of ‘breach of allegiance’ to Israel or on the basis of any other criteria, which, if carried out, will result in violations of his rights to freedom of expression, freedom of movement and residence, and would contribute to the commission of the serious crime of population transfer of the Palestinian people under international law;
2. Call on the international community and UN member states to exert pressure on Israel to comply with international law, by immediately revoking its Entry into Israel Law, which has been used to systematically violate the right of Palestinian citizens to freedom of movement and residence, including to leave their country and to return.
The African Centre for Democracy and Human Rights Studies (ACDHRS)
BADIL Resource Center for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights
Civic Coalition for Palestinian Rights in Jerusalem (CCPRJ)
Community Action Center – Al Quds University
Defense for Children International – Palestine
Hurryyat – Center for Defense of Liberties and Civil Rights
International Service for Human Rights (ISHR)
Jerusalem Legal Aid and Human Rights Center (JLAC)
Palestinian Counseling Center
Palestinian Non-Governmental Organizations Network (PNGO)
Ramallah Center for Human Rights Studies
Southern Africa Human Rights Defenders Network (SAHRDN)
The African Centre for Democracy and Human Rights Studies