Meet the Texas Speech Pathologist Who Lost School Job for Refusing to Sign Pro-Israel, Anti-BDS Oath

httpss://www.democracynow. org/2018/12/18/meet_the_texas_speech_pathologist_who


Well, for more, we are turning to Omar Barghouti. He was scheduled to join us here in our Democracy Now! studio in New York today, but instead he’s joining us from Ramallah in the West Bank. Omar Barghouti is the author of Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions: The Global Struggle for Palestinian Rights.

Omar, welcome to Democracy Now! Can you describe what happened when you got to the airport in Tel Aviv on Wednesday?

OMAR BARGHOUTI: Sure. The airline told me there was an issue with my visa. And there wasn’t. My visa was valid until 2021. So they called the U.S. Consulate in Tel Aviv. And after a long delay, just as I was boarding, they prevented me from boarding, saying that the U.S. Consulate had told them that there’s an “immigration issue,” a ban of sorts by the U.S. immigration against me, which was quite unbelievable. I’ve been to the United States many, many, many times, including on this same visa.


JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Omar Barghouti, in the past it’s been Israel that has tried to limit your ability to travel and banned you. How were you able to get a suspension of the Israeli efforts to stop you from traveling? And were you surprised that this time it was the United States that stepped in?


OMAR BARGHOUTI: Yes, indeed. Since 2014, Israel has prevented me—or tried, quite a few times—prevented me from traveling, through de jure and de facto travel bans, by refusing to renew my Israeli travel permit, without which I cannot leave and re-enter the country. This was condemned by Amnesty International, including very recently, in February of this year, as an arbitrary measure of punishing me for my human rights activities in the BDS movement.

Indeed, this was quite surprising that Israel has outsourced this type of micro-repression of the BDS movement to its allies in the White House. Israel has outsourced quite a lot of its repressive, McCarthyite policies to the United States. As your report correctly mentioned, 27 state legislatures have passed clearly unconstitutional, anti-democratic, anti-BDS measures. But this is the first time, that we’re aware of, that this micro level of repression is done by the U.S. as a proxy for Israel.


AMY GOODMAN: Can you respond to your denial by the Trump administration into the United States? What do you have to say to them?

OMAR BARGHOUTI: Yes. I think this is just another step that shows how this right-wing administration, which is completely in alliance with Israel’s far-right regime, is terrified of our voices, is terrified of telling the truth. They’re trying to prevent me from meeting U.S. lawmakers in Congress, mainstream media, to speak at a synagogue, to speak at Harvard and NYU, and so on and so forth, and certainly denying me the right to be with my daughter for her wedding, which is happening next Sunday. So, by this, the U.S. administration is just adding to its already very deep record of complicity in Israel’s violations of international law, but this time they’re violating U.S. law, because this is an ideological and political exclusion. And ACLU, PEN U.S. and other organizations are investigating this issue, whether the U.S. State Department is denying me entry over my human rights views.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: I wanted to ask you, as a founder of the BDS movement—and you’ve been watching the increased efforts worldwide by the Israeli government to squelch and repress the BDS movement—your reaction to the recent reports that ex-Mossad agents have harassed U.S. students and BDS activists here in the United States in an effort to intimidate them?

OMAR BARGHOUTI: There are so many ways of intimidation that Israel has resorted to, Israel and its lobby groups, whether the traditional Jewish establishment lobby or the Christian Zionist lobby. They’re involved in true McCarthyism. I mean, I call it McCarthyism 2.0, an evolved form of the earlier McCarthyism, with loyalty to Israel being the litmus test.

But Israel is certainly spying on U.S. citizens who are active in the BDS movement, as revealed in Al Jazeera’s documentary report, The Lobby, and as Alain Gresh wrote in Le Monde Diplomatique, and Electronic Intifada have revealed. Israel is indeed spying and using legal persecution against activists to silence BDS activists. Several of Israel’s lobby groups are funding the so-called Canary Mission, which is smearing activists on campus, especially Jewish activists, who support Palestinian rights. And they realilze that the number of Jewish activists in the U.S. who support Palestinian rights, and even who support BDS, is in the ascendance.


AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to go back to an interview we did last year, when we spoke to Bahia Amawi, a speech pathologist who’s filed a lawsuit against the Pflugerville Independent School District in Texas and the Texas state attorney general, after being forced out of her position for refusing to sign a pro-Israel pledge in her contract. Amawi explained she doesn’t consider herself a BDS activist but does try to avoid purchasing products that support the Israeli occupation.


BAHIA AMAWI: I am not actually an active member of the BDS at all. Just personally, for myself, if I’m aware of a product that is—you know, supports Israel or is made in the country, then I just have a personal—I make a personal choice to avoid it, because I don’t want to support their ongoing occupation and aggression and subhumane treatment of the Palestinians, that’s making me kind of like a silent participant complicit with the whole occupation. So, I actually—I’m not aware of it. I don’t even go through and find out the list of things. I just happen to know about it, or, you know, if somehow I find out, then I just avoid it. But other than that, really, I’m not an active member.


AMY GOODMAN: So, she declined to sign her contract, she said, quote, which said she “will not boycott Israel during the term of the contracts” and that she will not take any action that’s, quote, “intended to penalize, inflict economic harm on, or limit commercial relations with Israel.” This was in her contract as a speech pathologist with the company that was working in the schools, and she had been a beloved speech pathologist there for years. Omar Barghouti, how common is this?


OMAR BARGHOUTI: This is quite common. Most of the 27 state legislatures that have passed anti-BDS laws or signed executive orders by governors look very much the same. They’re suppressing the free speech of American citizens. And it’s as ACLU has called it; it’s reminiscent of McCarthy-era loyalty oaths. And those contracts say that you will not engage in a boycott of Israel or of the territories “under Israel’s control.” That is the occupied Palestinian territory or the occupied Syrian territory. Israel and its lobby make no distinction between Israel in the pre-’67 border and the occupied territory of 1967.

And indeed this is raising concern among liberals, in general, not just supporters of Palestinian rights. We’re seeing that across the United States. People understand very vividly, especially people of color, especially women, LGBTQ groups and so on, understand vividly that if Israel and its lobby get away with undermining the U.S. Constitution, the First Amendment, by suppressing free speech on Palestine, no one is safe. No one is safe. No one can tell who’s next. As the earlier version of McCarthyism has shown us, it wasn’t about the communists. It was about all dissenters, all those opposed to U.S. imperialism and intervention and right-wing politics. Similarly, this McCarthyism 2.0 will not stop at Palestine supporters, will not stop at silencing pro-Palestine voices. It will go on to suppress other justice struggles, be it climate justice, gender justice, sexual justice, ethnic, religious justice and racial justice.

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Rep. Ilhan Omar Faces Death Threats & “Dangerous Hate Campaign” as Right-Wing Attacks Continue

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: How do you account for this enormous campaign that has been launched against this freshman congressmember in terms of by so many conservatives and right-wing groups in the country and by the president himself? In your sense, what’s behind it?

MOUSTAFA BAYOUMI: Well, on one level, it’s very clear. Ilhan Omar is one of two Muslim women elected to Congress, the first two Muslim women elected to Congress. That gives her, I think, a certain level of prominence, along with a certain level of vulnerability. Not only that, but, of course, being openly Muslim, she wears hijab. She covers her hair. She’s a refugee. She’s an immigrant. She’s a black woman. So she occupies all of those vulnerable positions in our society today.

But it’s not only that, I believe, if you ask me, because if she were a quiet black refugee woman from Somalia, Muslim who covered her hair, and all of that stuff, then I think people would love to trot her out for the optics alone. But she’s not a quiet congresswoman. In fact, I think that’s a great thing. In fact, she seems to be a highly principled and highly effective politician, even just in the short time that she’s been in Congress. So, I think that, in fact, she’s a scary figure to a lot of people who are on the right, and even sometimes to the mainstream establishment of the Democratic Party, as well.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: That was going to be my follow-up. What about the reaction of the establishment of the Democratic Party to the threats against her and to the scapegoating of her?

MOUSTAFA BAYOUMI: Yes. Well, you know, I think that what we saw was in fact, in some ways, a litmus test of where the Democratic leadership and also those vying for the presidency lie on one of the more important issues of our day, which is Islamophobia, fundamentally. What we saw with Nancy Pelosi’s statement, for example, on Ilhan Omar was, I thought, extremely disappointing. I thought she was refusing to name Ilhan Omar explicitly, was not—didn’t come out in her defense, and in fact was backhandedly accusing her of sacralizing—or, desacralizing, I should say, the 9/11 territory, which was not the point of this controversy at all. So, I thought that Nancy Pelosi’s response was, in fact, quite shameful.

AMY GOODMAN: And now she’s being attacked for criticizing Stephen Miller for his fierce anti-immigrant views, being told that because she’s talking about Stephen Miller in the administration, she is singling out a Jewish member of the administration, which proves she is anti-Semitic. We had on Dr. David Glosser, who is Stephen Miller’s uncle, his sister’s son, who criticized his nephew for his extremist anti-immigrant views.

MOUSTAFA BAYOUMI: Yeah, exactly. I mean, does that mean that Ilhan Omar can only criticize Ilhan Omar? That would be the natural result of that. She’s not criticizing Stephen Miller for his Jewishness. She’s criticizing Stephen Miller for the positions that he holds. And that’s completely within the boundaries of American political discourse.

AMY GOODMAN: So what does this mean for Muslims around the country? Ilhan Omar says she herself has faced this spike in death threats against her. President Trump pinning the tweet of the video where he’s juxtaposed the 9/11 attacks with Ilhan Omar? We know about the attacks on the Tree of Life synagogue, the 11 Jewish worshipers that were killed, with the killer citing the same words that President Trump used—”invaders,” “invasion.” President Trump’s words and what he tweets has meaning.

MOUSTAFA BAYOUMI: Absolutely. In fact, there was a study that was performed last year—that was published last year, that said that there’s a direct correlation with Donald Trump’s anti-Muslim tweets and the rise in anti-Muslim hate crimes. So, Twitter and hate crimes, unfortunately, are connected. And they’re not only connected in the United States, they’re connected internationally, as well. That’s what the study found. And, in fact, not only is what Donald Trump tweeted completely disturbing, but it’s also coming within weeks of 50 people being killed in New Zealand in two different mosques by a man who also felt himself connected to President Trump and his ideology.

AMY GOODMAN: And let’s not forget what the New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern responded to President Trump when he asked what can he do, when he called the prime minister, and she said, “Respect the Muslim community,” as she then put on hijab herself to comfort the families of those killed. We want to thank you, Moustafa Bayoumi, for being here, author of This Muslim American Life: Dispatches from the War on Terror, professor at Brooklyn College. We’ll link to your piece in The Guardian.

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