The European Union and a consortium of 15 human rights organizations have petitioned the Israeli government on Shakir’s behalf.
“Denying entry to or, worse, deporting people from a country because they are or were in their past critical of its governmental policies is a classic feature of authoritarian regimes. Israel contends to be a liberal democracy, but Omar’s case clearly shows that the government is persecuting people on political grounds.”
— Michael Sfard, Shakir’s attorney.
An Israeli court issued an interim injunction on Wednesday temporarily preventing Israel’s Interior Ministry from deporting Omar Shakir, the Israel and Palestine director at Human Rights Watch.
Shakir, a U.S. citizen, had his work permit revoked this month based on a recent amendment to the country’s immigration laws aimed at fighting supporters of the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement.
This is the first time that Israel is applying the law against a person already inside the country; in previous instances, BDS activists seeking to enter the country have been blocked. If Shakir is expelled, critics say, it places Israel in a highly undesirable group of nations that have banned human rights activists.
Attorneys for Shakir have challenged the ministry’s decision in a legal petition and requested he be allowed to stay in the country pending the court case. That request was initially turned down by the Jerusalem District Court, but on Wednesday the same court reversed the decision, allowing him to remain.