by Stanley Heller, Administrator, PEP
Promoting Enduring Peace has set up a “Freedom to Travel” committee to pressure the Israeli government to allow one of its Gandhi Peace Award winners to travel to the United States. At a telephone press conference the 64-year-old peace and environmental group announced the Gandhi Peace Award will be given jointly to Ralph Nader (pictured on the left) and Omar Barghouti (right) at a ceremony in New Haven in April 2017.
Ralph Nader is known for over five decades for his consumer and civic activism and for being among the first nationally known figures to criticize Israeli abuses and to speak up in support of the Israeli peace movement. Omar Barghouti is one of the best-known leaders of the BDS (Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions) movement which calls for economic pressure against Israel until it withdraws from the land it occupies, gives full civic equality to Palestinians citizens inside Israel and allows Palestinian refugee families their right to return to their homeland and homes.
Yousef Munayyer, Executive Director of the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, talked about Omar Barghouti. He said the Palestinian was a “central player in the Palestinian campaign for the academic and cultural boycott of Israel.” And “Omar’s voice has been a crucial one in the past several years and one that should be increasingly amplified to all those asking about Palestinian non-violence.”
Rebecca Vilkomerson, Executive Director of Jewish Voice for Peace, said she first met Barghouti in 2009 and that’s when Jewish Voices for Peace (JVP) starting working on BDS issues. She hailed Barghouti’s leadership and “impeccable ethical framework” and his continued work “at great cost and risk to himself.”
The Israeli government has refused to renew Barghouti’s travel document and he is effectively banned from leaving Palestine/Israel. Vilkomerson said JVP would be working with PEP and other groups to restore Barghouti’s ability to travel and to come to the U.S. to accept the award.