The government’s real motivation was to hamper Human Rights Watch activities in the country. Previously, Shakir had been forced to leave Egypt and Syria over his human rights work, and was denied an entry visa to Bahrain.
By Steve Hendrix and Ruth Eglash | The Washington Post | Nov 5, 2019
‘The Supreme Court has effectively declared that free expression in Israel does not include completely mainstream advocacy for Palestinian rights. If the government now deports a Human Rights Watch’s researcher for asking businesses to respect rights as we do across the world, there’s no telling whom it will throw out next.’ — Kenneth Roth, Human Rights Watch executive director
Israel’s Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that the government could expel the head of Human Rights Watch’s Israel and Palestine office after accusing him of supporting boycotts against the country.
The ruling represents the likely culmination of the protracted effort to remove Omar Shakir, a US citizen, and marks an escalation in Israel’s determination to prevent critics from operating in the country under new laws that equate support for the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement (BDS) with challenging Israel’s right to exist.
Others have been denied entry visas under the laws, including two US congresswomen in August, but Shakir, who first had his work permit revoked in May 2018, would be the first to be expelled. He has 20 days to leave the country. . . .
“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.
“Human Rights Watch is a credible human rights organization. Even though we do not agree with all of their assertions or conclusions, given the seriousness of their efforts, we support the importance of the work they do.”
— Mark Toner, US State Department spokesman
Israel has given a Human Rights Watch director two weeks to leave the country, accusing him of promoting a boycott, in a move the rights group said sought to muzzle criticism. The interior ministry said Tuesday it had terminated the residency permit of HRW’s Israel and Palestine director Omar Shakir, a US citizen, over accusations that he supported a boycott of Israel.
“Following the recommendations of the Ministry of Strategic Affairs, containing information that Shakir has been a BDS activist for years supporting the boycott of Israel in an active way, the ministry has decided to terminate (his) residence permit,” the Interior Ministry said in a statement.