Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Israeli government to deport Israel-Palestine Director of Human Rights Watch

By Myriam Purtscher - April 18, 2019
Section: [Main News]
Tags: [BDS] [Human rights]

The Israeli government has upheld a deportation order against Human Rights Watch (HRW) director for the region, Omar Shakir, giving him two weeks to leave the country.


The Jerusalem District Court decided on 16 April to revoke Shakir’s work permit stating that his activities against Israel’s West Bank settlements amount to a boycott of the country.


Under an Israeli law passed in 2017, any foreigner who “knowingly issues a public call for boycotting Israel” can be denied obtaining a residency permit or work visa and barred from entering the country.


Tuesday’s ruling was the first time since the law was enacted against someone already residing in the country and has given Shakir until 1 May to exit Israel.


Shakir, a US citizen, has worked as HRW's Israel and Palestine director since October 2016.


Israel's Interior Minister Arye Dery has labelled Shakir a “boycott activist” for his alleged support of the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement.


Both HRW and Shakir have denied having any part in the movement.


According to Al Jazeera, the court stated Shakir "continues his actions publicly to advance a boycott against Israel, but it's not on the stages at conferences or in university panels, rather through disseminating his calls to advance boycott primarily through his Twitter account and by other means".


The court cited Shakir’s support on Twitter for Airbnb's decision to remove postings from Israeli settlements in the West Bank as an example. Airbnb has since reneged on that decision.


In a statement, Human Rights Watch has said this ruling sets a precedent that could threaten the rights and worker status of other advocacy organisations in the region.


“Israel portrays itself as the region’s only democracy, but is set to deport a rights defender over his peaceful advocacy,” said Tom Porteous, deputy program director at Human Rights Watch.


“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.”


A press release from Israeli Centre for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories, B’Tselem, said this court ruling “shines a spotlight on the place Israel holds in the infamous club of countries that restrict the activities of human rights organizations.”


B’Tselem further stated they will stand in solidarity with HRW and continue to publicise the Israeli occupation of Palestine.


“B’Tselem cordially informs the Israeli government that together with our colleagues in HRW and other human rights organisations, we will go on and provide the public – in Israel and all over the world – the facts. We will make sure that the reality of occupation will continue to be heard everywhere - until its end,” the statement said.


According to Middle East Monitor, Shakir’s lawyer, Michael Sfard, said: “Today’s ruling endangers the activities of all the international human rights organisations in Israel and in the occupied [Palestinian] territories […] the court has toed the line with a regime that seeks to silence criticism even at the cost of infringing on society’s most important liberties. We will of course appeal.”


Human Rights Watch is planning to challenge the decision in Israel’s Supreme Court and seek an injunction allowing Shakir to remain in Israel until the appeal is heard.

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