Standing with Omar Shakir

(photo: AFSC / Mike Merryman-Lotze)
Israel’s decision to deport the Human Rights Watch staffer is part of a broader effort to silence people speaking out for Palestinian rights.

By Mike Merryman-Lotze  | American Friends Service Committee |  Apr 19, 2019

This decision could impact many international organizations like Oxfam, Amnesty International, the Carter Center, and Norwegian People’s Aid that advocate against Israel’s illegal settlement policy but do not formally endorse or engage in BDS.

Earlier this week, an Israeli judge upheld a May 2017 Israeli government decision to deport Omar Shakir, Human Rights Watch Israel and Palestine director. Last year, the Israeli government revoked Omar’s visa after producing a dossier on him going back 10 years to his time as an undergraduate student and before he worked for HRW. The dossier alleged that Omar was biased and that he had supported boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) actions as a student.

It’s important to note that HRW does not support BDS. When Omar was first targeted by the Israeli government, HRW made a point of saying that the decision was not a sweeping targeting of the organization itself. But Israel’s legal response in defending its revocation of Omar’s visa pointed to HRW reports on illegal Israeli settlements and possible violations of international law by corporations doing business in settlements. Israel argued that HRW reports on violations by companies like AirBnB that operate in illegal settlements effectively equate to support for BDS.

In upholding the decision to revoke Omar’s visa, the Israeli court agreed with the Israeli government. The ruling sets a dangerous precedent by equating research and advocacy that calls for businesses to end complicity in abuses in illegal settlements with support for BDS, as HRW noted in a statement. And this decision could impact many international organizations like Oxfam, Amnesty International, the Carter Center, and Norwegian People’s Aid that advocate against Israel’s illegal settlement policy but do not formally endorse or engage in BDS.

The court’s decision comes amid a broader, coordinated effort to limit the voices of people speaking out for Palestinian rights.

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