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Human Rights Watch’s Israel and Palestine director Omar Shakir, a US citizen, sits at his office in the West Bank city of Ramallah on May 9, 2018.ABBAS MOMANI/AFP/Getty Images Washington Post : Israel accuses head of human rights group of anti-Israel activities and orders him to leave

May 23rd, 2018 | by Richard Paul
Human Rights Watch’s Israel and Palestine director Omar Shakir, a US citizen, sits at his office in the West Bank city of Ramallah on May 9, 2018.ABBAS MOMANI/AFP/Getty Images Washington Post : Israel accuses head of human rights group of anti-Israel activities and orders him to leave
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Israel accuses head of human rights group of anti-Israel activities and orders him to leave

While new legislation has been applied to BDS activists seeking to enter the country, this is the first-time Israel is applying the law against a person already inside


Human Rights Watch’s Israel and Palestine director Omar Shakir, a US citizen, sits at his office in the West Bank city of Ramallah on May 9, 2018.ABBAS MOMANI/AFP/Getty Images

JERUSALEM – Unless a last-minute appeal is successful, Omar Shakir, the Israel and Palestine director of Human Rights Watch, will be forced to leave here on Thursday as Israel puts into practice a recent amendment to its immigration laws aimed at fighting supporters of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.

While the new legislation has already been applied to BDS activists seeking to enter the country, this is the first-time Israel is applying the law against a person already inside. If Shakir is expelled, critics argue that it places Israel into a highly undesirable group of nations that have banned human rights activists.

Lawyers for Shakir are already challenging the order but a request he be allowed to stay in the country pending the court case was turned down last week by the Jerusalem District Court. His legal team have now turned to the Supreme Court.

Omar Shakir

@OmarSShakir

Israel ordered me deported over my criticism of its rights record. @hrw & I today sued to challenge unauthorized use of draconian law to monitor speech of foreigners lawfully present in Israel & deport them when they criticize govt https://www.hrw.org/sites/default/files/supporting_resources/hrw_petition_workpermit_en_1.pdf  https://www.hrw.org/sites/default/files/supporting_resources/hrw_petition_workpermit_heb_original.pdf 

“Denying entry to, or worse – deporting people from – a country, because they are or were in their past critical of its governmental policies, is a classic feature of authoritarian regimes,” said Michael Sfard, Shakir’s attorney.

“Israel contends to be a liberal democracy but Omar’s case clearly shows that the government is persecuting people on political grounds,” he said.

Change+wake+up+faggots_d38f65_4981232

By his own admission, Shakir was once active in promoting boycotts against Israel but says that since taking up his position with HRW and being granted a work permit by Israel a year ago, he has not engaged in such activities.

Shakir, a U.S. citizen, was initially denied a work permit, but in March 2017, the Interior Ministry relented and granted him a year-long visa. When he applied to renew that visa, however, he was told his status was under review. On May 7, Shakir was notified that the permit had been revoked. He was ordered to leave Israel within 14 days.

“After a thorough investigation, it was found that in recent years, Mr. Shakir has worked consistently, prominently, and continuously to promote boycotts against the State of Israel and international companies investing in Israel,” read a statement from the Ministry of Strategic Affairs and Public Diplomacy, which has been tasked with combating the BDS movement.

Omar Shakir

@OmarSShakir

How do rights abuses become systematic? Impunity. @hrw on need for @IntlCrimCourt to open a formal probe into the situation in Palestine. Without accountability, bloodshed and repression will continue…

The Israeli government says that the boycott campaign actively promotes the country’s demise and denies Israel’s basic right to exist as a Jewish and democratic state. Those who advocate for BDS say their goal is to pressure Israel into complying with international law vis-à-vis its policies toward the Palestinians. The movement discourages the purchase of Israeli goods, pressures international companies not to conduct business in Israel and urges celebrities not to visit or perform in the country.

The ministry, which worked with the Interior Ministry to pass legislation banning BDS activists from entering Israel, pointed to Shakir’s contribution to a U.N. Human Rights Council report blacklisting international and Israeli companies operating in the West Bank, his role working with the Palestinian Authority to ban Israel from the international soccer association, FIFA, and his call for an investigation by the International Criminal Court against Israel.

“It is unacceptable that boycott promoters are allowed visas to stay in Israel, while at the same time attempting to harm the country,” said Israel’s Interior Minister Aryeh Deri in a statement. “I will do everything in my ability to prevent such individuals from entering or residing in Israel.”


A Palestinian boy leaves a store that had erected a poster calling people to boycott Israel in East Jerusalem neighbourhood of Beit Hanina on August 26, 2014. AHMAD GHARABLI/AFP/Getty Images

Gilad Erdan, minister for strategic affairs and public diplomacy said: “Even when they attempt to hide their promotion of anti-Israel boycotts by appropriating the language of human rights, we will reveal their hypocrisy and moral double standards, and hold them accountable for their actions.”

Both ministers dismissed suggestions that not renewing Shakir’s visa would generate international criticism of Israel. A dossier prepared by Erdan’s ministry on Shakir’s case noted “our view is that it is untenable to allow a person who has been consistently involved in activities intended to harm the State of Israel over many years to work in the country as if nothing has happened.”

In response, Human Rights Watch said that most of the information contained in the dossier was based on Shakir’s activities “predating his Human Rights Watch employment.”

The group also pointed out that when Shakir’s work permit had initially been denied, the Interior Ministry had based its rejection on an advisory from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which noted that “for some time now, this organization’s public activities and reports have engaged in politics in the service of Palestinian propaganda, while falsely raising the banner of ‘human rights.’”

“This is not about Shakir, but rather about muzzling Human Rights Watch and shutting down criticism of Israel’s rights record,” said Iain Levine, deputy executive director for the program at Human Rights Watch. “Compiling dossiers on and deporting human rights defenders is a page out of the Russian or Egyptian security services’ playbook.”

On Tuesday, the European Union called on Israel to reverse its decision regarding Shakir.

“Otherwise Israel will join a very short list of countries which have barred entry to, or expelled, Human Rights Watch staff,” it said in a statement.

A consortium of 15 human rights organizations in Israel also slammed the decision, saying that “the decision to deport a Human Rights Watch official, and the growing list of people to whom it denies entry for criticizing the occupation, places Israel squarely on a list of disreputable states.”

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