Omar Barghouti, one of the founders of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against the Israeli occupation of Palestine, was invited to address the European Parliament (EP) during an event on Palestine despite opposition from pro-Israeli groups.
On a Feb. 28 panel at the EP, Barghouti critized the EU's contradictory policies towards the Israel amid its increasing right-wing extremism and “occupation and oppresion against the Palestinian people.”
The BDS activist was invited to the European Parliament as a guest speaker for a panel event called “The Israeli Settlements in Palestine and the European Union,” organized by Portuguese Member of the European Parliament Ana Gomes, who is part of the Socialists and Democracts Group at the EP.
But the main focus was the passive international reaction towards Israel illegal policies, noting that the EU has “failed to uphold its legal obligations” regarding the Israeli settlements in the West Bank.
“Therefore, the EU remains largely complicit enabling and maintaning Israel's occupation and violation of Palestinian rights,” he said, adding that “only effective European civil society pressure can bring this EU complicity to an end.”
Barghouti also highlighted the success of the BDS movement in convincing many companies of pulling out from Israel and its occupied territories.
As expected the decision to invite Barghouti was fiercely opposed by pro-Israeli advocacy groups, but that didn't prevent him from addresing the EP. Pro-Israeli groups sent a letter to EP President Antonio Tajani accusing Barghouti and the BDS movement of anti-semitism.
The American Jewish Committee Transatlantic Institute (AJC) tweeted that Barghouti's remarks accusing Israel of apartheid were “outrageous.” Nevertheless members of the group still attended the event.
According to the AJC, the BDS movement qualifies as anti-Semitic because under the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance's working definition, it is “denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination,” an accusation that the BDS has denied.
But Barghouti's presence was mostly welcomed by MEPs. Danish Margrete Auken tweeted that the “EU must act in respect to international law,” regarding Barghouti's remarks about “the impact of illegal Israeli settlements and EU passivity.”
Dublin's MEP Lynn Boylan met with Barghouti before his speech at the EP and expressed her support for the BDS movement. Boylan said that “it is unacceptable that the EU has done nothing to prevent Israel from continuing to displace Palestinians from their homes and to profit from stolen Palestinian resources.”
Boylan also called the BDS campaign a “means to challenge and end Israeli violations of Palestinian human rights and international law.”
The BDS movement has been nominated to the Nobel Peace Prize for its peaceful efforts in stopping a brutal occupation and what is called by many an apartheid regime.