'The co-founder of the BDS – boycott, divestment and sanctions – movement for Palestinian rights is unable to speak in the UK because the British government has failed to grant him a visa.
Omar Barghouti was due to participate in a fringe event during next week’s Labour Party conference, alongside senior party leaders and trade unionists.
“Omar Barghouti was scheduled to speak on nonviolent, ethically consistent strategies to counter Israel’s regime of oppression and to end international complicity with it,” the Palestine Solidarity Campaign stated Friday.
But “due to an unexplained, abnormal delay in issuing his visa,” Barghouti will speak by video instead.
PSC said that the “unprecedented delay in processing Barghouti’s travel visa application by the British government is part and parcel of the growing efforts by Israel and its allies to suppress Palestinian voices and the movements for Palestinan rights.”
Earlier this year, the Trump administration barred Barghouti from traveling to the US for a speaking tour, a move denounced by civil liberties defenders as censorship.
It appears that the UK, often the junior partner of the US, is following suit.
“They fear our shining a light of truth that reveals their lies. They dread our tireless quest for freedom, justice and equality,” Barghouti said.
“We shall continue to fight their McCarthyism and repression and persist in pursuit of our UN-stipulated rights, including self-determination and the return of our ethnically cleansed refugees.”
A crackdown on the free speech of Palestinian rights supporters is taking place in other countries allied with Israel, especially Germany, France and Austria.
Australia has also banned or placed obstacles in the way of speakers coming to talk about Palestinian rights, including this writer.
In an alarming development this week, the US Department of Education has ordered the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Duke University to make changes to their federally funded joint Middle East studies program.
According to The New York Times, this blatant interference in academic freedom reflects the agenda of Kenneth Marcus, a longtime Israel lobbyist appointed to the Department of Education by the Trump administration.
Government officials say the curriculum spends too much time casting Muslims in a positive light.
“With its actions, the department entered the debate over Israel and Palestinians that has roiled campuses around the country,” the newspaper added.
“They really want to send the message that if you want to criticize Israel, then the federal government is going to look very closely at your entire program and micromanage it to death,” Zoha Khalili, a lawyer with civil rights group Palestine Legal, told the Times.
The US and the other countries censoring speech on Palestine all purport to hold freedom of expression as a fundamental value.
Often acts of censorship are rationalized with the so-called IHRA definition of anti-Semitism, which Israel and its lobby have pressured institutions and governments to adopt.'
Read more: UK blocks visit by BDS co-founder Omar Barghouti
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