Saturday, October 31, 2020

EU urges Israel to reverse decision to deport senior HRW official, Omar Shakir

By Yehudit Tzfat - November 14, 2019
Section: [Main News]
Tags: [BDS] [Human rights]

The European Union called on the Israeli government on Monday to not revoke the work visa of Omar Shakir, the Human Rights Watch Director for Israel-Palestine. 

“The EU stands firm in protecting freedom of expression and freedom of association and calls on the Israeli Government to reverse its decision on revoking the work visa of Omar Shakir,” Maja Kocijancic, the EU spokesperson, said in a statement.

Last week, the Israeli Supreme Court upheld the government’s decision to expel Shakir, a United States citizen, from the state over accusations he supports the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement — a Palestinian-led campaign pressuring Israel to comply with international law. Shakir was given 20 days to leave the country. 

Interior Minister Aryeh Deri hailed the Supreme Court’s opinion saying, “anyone who acts against the country should know we will not allow them to work or live here.”

In 2018, Deri cancelled the activist’s visa for allegedly promoting anti-Israel BDS activity on the basis of a 2017 law authorising the state to ban foreign nationals who publicly call for boycotts of Israel or its West Bank settlements. 

The Strategic Affairs Ministry accused Shakir of posting BDS content online. The Supreme Court’s decision came after Shakir launched an appeal following a Jerusalem district court’s decision to uphold the ministry’s refusal of his work visa. 

Shakir asked the government to stop his deportation under a law permitting the Foreign Ministry to prevent action against BDS activists if such a decision could harm Israel’s foreign relations. 

Shakir said Israel’s decision is politically motivated and part of a strategic plan to silence human rights workers and activists. When the Supreme Court’s ruling was announced, Shakir took to Twitter to say Israel will “join ranks of Iran, N Korea & Egypt in blocking access for @hrw official. We won’t stop. And we won’t be the last.”

Kenneth Roth, Executive Director of the Human Rights Watch, also condemned the court’s decision to allow Shakir’s deportation.

“The Supreme Court has effectively declared that free expression in Israel does not include completely mainstream advocacy for Palestinian rights,” Roth said in a statement. “If the government now deports 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.”

The Supreme Court ruling is part of Israel’s crackdown on human rights activism. Israel has recently targeted human rights organisations by denying workers entry, arresting staff and raiding offices. In September, Israeli forces stormed the office of Addameer, a Palestinian not-for-profit advocating on behalf of prisoners.

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