HWH ClipBoard: Thank you Omar Shakir for sacrificing your presence in Palestine\Israel without sacrificing your work to expose: the UGLY TRUTH of discrimination enslavement torture and slaughter of the Palestinian People, thus the collective Palestinian Soul and the destruction and theft of Palestinian habitats by the Israeli government, that then hands those habitats over to Jewish Immigrant Poachers with impunity and arrogance.
‘Israel is joining an ugly club,’ says rights group as director expelled
Human Rights Watch’s Israel director Omar Shakir leaves for Jordan under 2017 law
Oliver Holmes in Jerusalem
Mon 25 Nov 2019 08.04 EST
Last modified on Mon 25 Nov 2019
Omar Shakir is the first person to be expelled from Israel under a 2017 law allowing the deportation of foreigners who support a boycott of Israel. Israel has deported the local director of Human Rights Watch for his alleged support for a boycott campaign, a move the advocacy group said placed the country in an “ugly club” of authoritarian regimes.
Omar Shakir, HRW’s Israel and Palestine representative, lost a landmark supreme court case this month that centred on Israel’s ability to expel its critics. The government had refused to renew Shakir’s visa, and Monday is the deadline for him to leave.
At a press conference in Jerusalem hours before his flight, the researcher condemned the decision as an escalating assault on the human rights movement.
“If the Israelis can deport somebody documenting rights abuse without facing consequence, how can we ever stop rights abuse?” said Shakir. Israel argues its objection is to Shakir alone, not human rights campaigners generally.
The expulsion of Shakir, a US citizen, is seen as a test case for a contentious 2017 law that allows the government to deport people who support a boycott of Israel or Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank.
Many of Israel’s critics have been denied entry under the law, but Shakir is the first person already working in the country to be expelled using the legislation.
Kenneth Roth, HRW’s executive director, denied that the New York-based advocacy group, or Shakir as its representative, had supported a boycott against Israel. He said pressing businesses to acknowledge the rights abuses of the Israeli occupation was not the same as a boycott. For example, HRW has pushed Airbnb to remove rentals in settlements.
“It is standard procedure that human rights groups insist that businesses avoid complicity in human rights violations,” said Roth, who travelled to Jerusalem for the press conference. “Omar applied those same principles to ask businesses not to support Israel’s illegal settlements … Human Rights Watch has never urged a boycott of Israel.”
Shakir would continue his role remotely from Amman in neighbouring Jordan, Roth said.
“We’re used to operating in countries that bar our research. We’ve learned the necessity of monitoring human rights abuses from afar in countries like Iran and Egypt and Venezuela, all of which have barred our researchers,” said Roth. “Israel today is joining that ugly club of governments.”
He warned the expulsion would hamper his group’s work, including critical research on rights abuses carried out by Israel’s enemies, including Hamas.
The United Nations and European Union have criticised the decision to deport Shakir and called on Israel to reverse it. The UK government said it urged Israel to allow civil society organisations to operate freely.
Shakir said his being forced to leave was a minor hindrance in comparison to the increasingly suffocating atmosphere for Israeli and Palestinian rights advocates, who had suffered travel bans, arrests and office raids.
Israel passed the 2017 law used against Shakir as a measure to criminalise the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement, which advocates for broad boycotts. Rights groups say it encodes bars on free speech into law.
The Ministry of Strategic Affairs, which spearheaded efforts to expel Shakir, said Israel, “like any sane country, has the right to decide who is given the freedom to enter and work within its borders”. It accused Shakir of being a “BDS propagator”.
Israel’s case against Shakir was based on statements on boycotts he made before he joined HRW but also his more recent work criticising settlements.
In the most high-profile use of the anti-BDS law, Israel blocked in August two highly critical US congresswomen, Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib, from a planned trip to Palestine and Jerusalem.
Israel later agreed to a request by Tlaib to visit Palestinian members of her family on the condition that she did not express her views on the boycott. However, Tlaib subsequently rejected the offer, saying the conditions were “oppressive”.
Agence France-Presse contributed to this report