NEW YORK—In response to reports that prominent Palestinian activist Omar Barghouti was denied entry to the United States despite holding valid travel documents, PEN America said today that, if confirmed, his exclusion on ideological grounds would be a violation of his free expression rights, as well as an infringement on academic freedom and the rights of those who have planned to attend several public events in the U.S. in the coming days to hear him speak.

Barghouti is the co-founder of the so-called BDS movement and the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel. He is the author of Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions: The Global Struggle for Palestinian Rights. National Public Radio has reported that “the denial torpedoes a scheduled speaking tour that included stops at Harvard and New York University, meetings with Washington policymakers and an appearance at a bookstore in Philadelphia owned by professor Marc Lamont Hill, whose CNN pundit contract was terminated last November over controversial remarks he made in support of Palestinian rights. At the end of the trip, Barghouti planned to attend the wedding of his daughter, who lives in the United States.”

“The U.S. government needs to explain immediately why Omar Barghouti was blocked today from travelling to the U.S.” said Summer Lopez, Senior Director of Free Expression Programs at PEN America. “Preventing Mr. Barghouti from traveling denies Americans the opportunity to hear, engage with, and challenge his views as they see fit. Denying him entry based on his political views is a violation of the basic principles of free expression and open discourse protected by the First Amendment.”

PEN America has long fought against ideological exclusions as a violation of free expression and an impediment to open discourse across borders, and also maintains a longstanding policy of opposition to cultural and academic boycotts as infringing upon “the universally guaranteed right of all to seek, receive, and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers [which] includes the right to engage in direct, face-to-face discussions, debates, challenges, and collaborations.”


PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect open expression in the United States and worldwide. We champion the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world. Our mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible.

CONTACT: Anoosh Gasparian, External Relations Manager: [email protected]