By Allison Deger | Mondoweiss | Apr 16, 2019
‘Israel portrays itself as the region’s only democracy, but is set to deport a rights defender over his peaceful advocacy. The decision sends the chilling message that those who criticize the involvement of businesses in serious abuses in Israeli settlements risk being barred from Israel and the Israeli-occupied West Bank.’
— Tom Porteous, deputy program director at Human Rights Watch
An Israeli court upheld a ruling to deport Human Rights Watch’s Israel and Palestine director Omar Shakir on Tuesday over his advocacy calling on online booking agents to cease providing platforms for rentals in Israeli settlements in the West Bank. The decision marks the first time Israel has taken steps to ban staff for Human Rights Watch from operating in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories in more than three decades of monitoring work.
The Jerusalem District court said it agreed with a decision from 2018 where the Israeli government ordered to revoke Shakir’s work visa over alleged violations of a 2017 law that bans foreign nationals who support boycotts against Israel and the settlements. The measure was deeply contested at the time, passing with 46 votes in favor and 28 against. The main opponents were legislatures who take part in a boycott of settlement products and panned the law’s lack of distinction between Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories.
In the court proceedings, state attorneys raised Shakir’s past activism dating back to when he was a college student who endorse boycotts of Israel, yet acknowledged he had not done so in his capacity as staff for Human Rights Watch. Instead, judges ruled his work on a 2018 report that asked American-owned travel websites Airbnb and Bookings.com not to host listings for properties in the West Bank, constituted a violation of the anti-boycott law.