BDS co-founder Omar Barghouti fails to secure UK entry visa in time for Labour conference fringe

Mr Barghouti, who supports abolishing the Jewish state, had been due to speak alongside Diane Abbott, Lisa Nandy and Len McCluskey


The co-founder of the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions movement, who was due to speak at a number of fringe events at the Labour party conference, has been told his application for an entry visa to the UK has been delayed.

Omar Barghouti had been due to speak at a Palestine Solidarity Campaign event in Brighton on Sunday, alongside prominent Labour party politicians including Diane Abbott, the Shadow Home Secretary and Lisa Nandy, chair of Labour Friends of Palestine and the Middle East.

Len McCluskey, general secretary of the Unite union, and Josie Bird, president of the Unison union, were also due to speak alongside him.

However, on Friday, the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) said that Mr Barghouti had been unable to travel to the UK “because his visa was abnormally delayed by the British government without explanation.”

The PSC blamed his lack of a visa on “growing efforts by Israel and its allies to suppress Palestinian voices and the movements for Palestinan rights.” The organisation added that Mr Barghouti would speak via a video link-up instead.

The World Transformed, a four-day event running alongside Labour which describes itself as being “about setting a radical agenda for the Corbyn project and beyond”, and at which Mr Barghouti had also been scheduled to talk in person, also said it would arrange for him to speak via video.

Mr Barghouti has opposed the idea of a two-state solution, instead advocating for a single “secular democratic state.” He has also rejected the idea of a bi-national state, saying that this would mean recognising national Jewish rights and therefore “imply accepting their right to self-determination”.

Professor Alan Johnson, editor of Bicom's journal, Fathom, said: "The real-world meaning of Barghouti's 'unitary state'  - which is unwanted by both Israelis and Palestinians, by the way - is the violent end of the one Jewish national home on the planet. 

"The land between the river and the sea would become another Arab state and Jewish national self-determination would end. The ramparts which the IDF stand atop would fall. Barghouti claims to believe that the Jews would do just fine in this new dispensation, as a national minority in today's Arab Middle East!

"The Jews will never consent to give up their national home, so Barghouti’s real programme is, in my view, conquest, albeit in two stages. First, the BDS movement is to isolate Israel from its allies. Second, the local hard men, Jeremy Corbyn's 'friends' and 'brothers', are to take Israel out."

Despite advocating for a worldwide economic, cultural and academic boycott of Israel, Mr Barghouti received a Masters degree from Tel Aviv University and is currently studying for a PhD there.

In a 2015 interview with the Associated Press when he was questioned on the subject, he said that Palestinians "cannot possibly observe the same boycott guidelines as asked of internationals".

Luke Akehurst, Labour member and director of the “We Believe in Israel” group, said the organisation “welcomed" this decision.

He said: “This man believes a Jewish state should not exist, he believes Israel should not exist. These views are a violation of the IHRA definition of antisemitism and they should have no place at Labour party conference. Instead they would have been welcomed - Lisa Nandy and Diane Abbott were planning to speak alongside him. They should apologise and explain themselves.”

A Home Office spokeswoman said: “Our service standard is to decide straightforward applications within 15 working days, although more complex cases take longer.

“Mr Barghouti’s application remains within this target and he will receive a decision shortly.”

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