The co-founder of an international movement to damage the Israeli economy by encouraging boycotts against businesses in the Jewish state and sanctions against companies doing business with Israel has apparently found another way to hit the country in the pocketbook – tax evasion.
Israeli authorities arrested and questioned Omar Barghouti Monday on suspicion the activist from the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement against Israel had hidden about $700,000 in unreported income from the company he directs, National Computing Resources in Ramallah in the West Bank, as well honorarium fees received for lectures against Israel he gave around the world and a book he wrote.
The undeclared earnings were reportedly kept in bank accounts in Ramallah and the U.S.
A raid of Barghouti’s Acre home in northern Israel produced receipts and credit-card information supporting the charges, reported Haaretz. He was later released on bail, but required to surrender his passport and forbidden to leave the country. He’s set to receive the Gandhi Peace Prize in the U.S. in April.
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The BDS movement organizes boycotts of Israeli products and institutions and calls for divestment from companies and institutions that “violate Palestinian rights” by their involvement in Israel. And while BDS has been a thorn in Israel’s side and has enjoyed some success in Europe, New Zealand and on U.S. college campuses, it’s questionable how much damage it has really caused to Israel’s economy.
WND reported that despite high-profile stories of celebrities and entertainers canceling visits or performances in Israel, foreign investments in Israeli assets “hit a record high last year  of $285.1 billion,” up three times from when the BDS activism was started in 2005 by Palestinians who oppose Israel’s existence.
Increasingly, opposition against the BDS movement has become more organized. The American Center for Law and Justice – a Christian public-interest legal group – works to expose BDS supporters as “anti-Israel activists, identifying and quashing manifestations, providing legal protections for Jewish citizens and Israeli interests, and changing the international conversation regarding the ‘BDS narrative.'”
“The unambiguous goal of the international BDS movement is the elimination of the state of Israel,” said ACLJ Chief Counsel Jay Sekulow.
While Barghouti, a Qatari-born Palestinian whose wife is an Arab citizen of Israel, lectures widely around the world, he refuses to debate Jewish opponents whether they are Israelis or not.
WND reported Barghouti’s refusal to debate former Harvard Law professor Alan Dershowtiz at Oxford University.
“He refused to debate me because, he said, I am part of the group that has to be boycotted,” Dershowitz told WND. “I’m not an Israeli, but I’m a Jew and I support Israel, so he refused to debate me. He was boycotting me.”
Barghouti also forbade a woman from debating him.
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Due to his marriage to an Israeli citizen, Barghouti was granted permanent resident status in the Jewish state and earned a degree in philosophy from Tel Aviv University. His BDS activism is seen by the Israeli government as an attempt to destroy the nation.
Last year, Israel’s interior minister told a conference revoking Barghouti’s residency was under consideration, reported Haaretz.
“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,” Aryeh Dery said.
“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.
Barghouti has claimed responsibility for an “indirect, palpable psychological impact on the mainstream Israeli psyche about the country becoming more ‘isolated’ from the world.”