Supreme Court rules Israel can deport Human Rights Watch official

November 6, 2019 by JNS
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Israel’s Supreme Court has ruled that Human Rights Watch Israel and Palestine director Omar Shakir may be deported, upholding a district court ruling that found him guilty of promoting anti-Israel boycotts.

Human Rights Watch Israel and Palestine Director Omar Shakir. Credit: Human Rights Watch.

According to a ruling handed down by the Jerusalem District Court in April, “Not only did [Shakir] not prove that he had abandoned his calls for a boycott of Israel [upon taking up his post at Human Rights Watch] … [he] has continued to carry out his agenda as evident from his actions and statements.”

The ruling went on to state that, “The petitioner continues to publicly call for a boycott against the State of Israel or parts of it, and in the same breath, requests Israel open its doors to him.”

Shakir was denied an Israeli work visa in 2017 due to concerns that he was engaged in anti-Israel activity. He received a one-year permit in April 2017, the same year Israel passed a law allowing it to deport or bar entry to foreign nationals publicly backing or promoting BDS.

In 2018 Israel’s Interior Ministry refused to renew the permit, citing Shakir’s support for BDS on social media. Shakir and Human Rights Watch both denied the allegation, accusing Israel of using the 2017 law to silence criticism.

“I applaud the decision of the Supreme Court … that a work visa should not be given to a foreign boycott activist who wants to harm Israel and its citizens,” said Israeli Strategic Affairs Minister Gilad Erdan in a statement. “Omar Shakir is a BDS activist who took advantage of his stay in Israel to harm it, something no sane country would allow.”

Erdan stressed that Israel greatly valued “real” human-rights organizations, adding that HRW was welcome to appoint a replacement for Shakir.

“Israel sees great importance in the activities of real human-rights organizations, granting hundreds of visas every year to human-rights activists,” said Erdan. “HRW is welcome to appoint another representative in Israel place of Shakir if it chooses to do so.”

Following the ruling, Shakir must now leave the country within 20 days.


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