Thursday, October 18, 2018

Human Rights Watch local director given two weeks to leave the country


By Annelies Verbeek - May 17, 2018
TAGS:
Section: [Main News]
Tags: [BDS] [permits]

Israel has revoked the work permit of Omar Shakir, the director of the Israel Palestine office of Human Rights Watch. He has been given two weeks to leave the country.

His work visa was revoked on accusation of his alleged support for the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement. Shakir denies the accusations against him, and says the real intention of his deportation is the “muzzle dissent.”
 
Shakir was first denied a work permit in February last year. The Israeli Foreign Ministry had then stated that his public activities and reports were “in the service of Palestinian propaganda while falsely raising the banner of human rights.”
 
In that period, the US criticised Israel’s decision. Mark Toner, spokesperson of the US State Department had released a statement, claiming Human Rights Watch is “a credible human rights organisation,” and that “the US strongly disagrees with Israel’s characterisation of Human Rights Watch,” CNN wrote. There has been no statement yet from the US State Department on the current revocation of his work visa.
 
After pressure, Israeli authorities granted Shakir a work visa in April 2017. That visa has now been revoked.
 
The Israeli Population and Migration Authority compiled an intelligence dossier on him, accusing him of supporting BDS. Human Rights Watch published an English version of the report on their website.
 
The dossier attempted to corroborate accusations against Shakir by stating that he “often retweets and shares contents on BDS.” Moreover, the dossier goes back in time to include Shakir’s activities in university. While studying at Stanford University, he was co-president of an organisation called “Students for Equal Palestinian Rights.” The organisation led a campaign advocating boycott against companies that profit from the Israeli occupation of the West Bank.
 
March last year, the Israeli Knesset approved a bill stating that no visa or residency permit will be given to foreign nationals that participated in boycott, or are part of an organisations that have issued calls for boycott against Israel.
 
Shakir wrote on his Twitter account that the real aim of his deportation is to “muzzle dissent.”
 
16 Israeli human rights organisations have signed a statement in support of Shakir, published on rights group B’tselem’s website. “There’s no hiding the occupation,” the rights group claimed.
 
The Israeli rights groups affirmed that none of the Israeli government’s actions - closing the borders to human rights activists or measures against organisations critical of the occupation - would deter them from reporting Israeli human rights violations.
 
Palestinian rights group Al Haq and the Palestinian Prisoners Society (PPS) equally published statements on the revocation of Shakir’s work permit. Al Haq wrote that Israel seeks to obstruct to work of human rights workers to prevent further exposure of Israel’s continued violations of international law. PPS claimed that “Israel is trying to censor the truth.”
 
Shakir tweeted in response to Al Haq’s statement:
 
“Palestinian rights defenders face the most significant pressures: death threats, travel restrictions, and even arrest & criminal charges. Grateful for the solidarity of one of the premier Palestinian rights groups, @alhaq_org -- we are in this together.”
 

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