Human Rights Watch’s Israel and Palestine director was deported from Israel on Monday under claims he supported anti-Israel boycotts, while his supporters say he is being deported to cover up human rights abuses.
HRW’s Omar Shakir, a U.S. citizen, had served as the country director for Israel and Palestine for three years.
The Israeli Interior Ministry refused to renew Shakir’s work visa in May 2018.
The government said Shakir supported the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, a pro-Palestinian initiative that aims to boycott Israeli businesses and goods. Israeli law allows for the deportation of foreigners who support boycotting Israel and denying their entry into the country.
Shakir and HRW deny they support BDS.
“This has never been about BDS,” said Shakir in a video posted on HRW’s Twitter, “it’s always been about the Israeli government’s efforts to muzzle Human Rights Watch.”
Israel’s Supreme Court interpreted Shakir’s advocacy for businesses to stop operating in Israeli settlements in the West Bank as violating the law against foreigners who support boycotting Israel. According to HRW Executive Director Ken Roth, Shakir was punished for promoting official HRW policy.
HRW says it is part of a business’s duty to “avoid complicity in human rights abuses.”
The court upheld the government’s deportation order on Nov. 5 and gave Shakir 20 days to leave the country.
Shakir will continue to serve as the country director for Israel and the Palestinian territories despite not being able to enter Israel. Instead, he will work remotely from Jordan.
In a press conference Monday, Roth said if HRW sent another researcher to the region as a replacement, that person would likely face a similar deportation order.
The human rights monitor announced Monday that he will be touring six European countries and will address the European Union’s European Parliament on “Israel’s systemic repression of Palestinians.”
Source: Voice of America