Israel Arrests BDS Founder Omar Barghouti for Tax Evasion

Barghouti, a resident of Acre in Israel, is suspected of hiding $700,000 in unreported income in Ramallah and the U.S.

Omar Barghouti listens during an interview with the Associated Press in the West Bank city of Ramallah, Tuesday, May 10, 2016.
Omar Barghouti listens during an interview with the Associated Press in the West Bank city of Ramallah, Tuesday, May 10, 2016. Nasser Nasser, AP

Omar Barghouti, one of the founders of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement against Israel, was arrested Monday on suspicion of tax evasion.

Barghouti, who resides in Acre in northern Israel, is suspected of hiding about $700,000 in unreported income from both the company he heads, National Computing Resources in Ramallah in the West Bank, and from speaking fees he was paid over the past decade, reported the Globes business newspaper.

Barghouti was arrested and questioned by Israel Tax Authorities investigators and released on bail by the Haifa Magistrate's Court, but he is not allowed to leave Israel and had to hand in his passport.  

Barghouti, a founding member of the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, is suspected of hiding the money he earned from his company, which sells ATMs and other equipment in the West Bank, in a bank in Ramallah. Barghouti is also suspected of hiding the money he made from his lectures and a book he wrote in a bank account in the United States and were not reported to the tax authorities.

His home was searched and various documents, such as bank and credit card statements, were found that supported the allegations, said the police.

Barghouti, a Qatari-born Palestinian whose wife is an Arab citizen of Israel, is a permanent resident of Israel. He has a degree in philosophy from Tel Aviv University.  

In March 2016, Interior Minister Aryeh Dery was quoted as telling a conference that he was considering revoking Barghouti's residency. "I received 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," Dery 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," said Dery.

Israel tried to refuse to issue a travel permit to Barghouti last year, saying that his residency rights in Israel are currently being reconsidered.

Israel says the BDS movement's true goal is to destroy the country. Israeli officials have identified the BDS movement as a major threat. BDS supporters say the movement is using nonviolent means to end the 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.