“Israel is about to become the first country that considers itself a Western democracy to expel an HRW researcher,” the Director of HRW said.
Israel will deport Monday Human Rights Watch's (HRW) Director for Israel and Palestinian territories Omar Shakir after accusations of backing the international pro-Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement (BDS), were made against him by the government.
Israel’s Supreme Court had unanimously ratified earlier this month the Interior Ministry’s refusal to extend Shakir’s work visa and ordered him to leave the country within 20 days.
The move makes Shakir be the first person to be banned from Israel under a law passed in 2017 allowing the deportation of foreign citizens who, according to authorities, support the boycott.
“Israel is about to become the first country that considers itself a Western democracy to expel an HRW researcher,” the Executive Director of HRW wrote Sunday on his Twitter account to denounce the expulsion.
"I cannot think of another democracy that has barred a Human Rights Watch researcher," Roth also told AFP. He added that Israel, despite enjoying elections and a free press, tries "as much as it can" to silence efforts "spotlighting the human rights violations at the heart of the oppressive, discriminatory occupation of Palestinian land."
The rights group denies it supports boycotts of Israel and said that Israel’s decision against its employee only shows its willingness to suppress rights criticism, referring to statements previously made by Shakir to criticize Israel’s settlements in the occupied West-Bank.
Shakir’s pro-Palestinian comments that launched the case date back to before 2016 when he was appointed to the HRW post. He had then contested that his comments constituted current backing for boycotts of Israel.
A United States citizen, Shakir told the Associated Press on Sunday that he will keep on doing his same work of documenting violations in Israel and the Palestinian territories from another country.
“We’re talking about a half-century-long occupation defined by systematic repression and institutional discrimination,” Shakir told the AP. “That requires important, urgent work, and it’s unfortunate that I won’t be able to do it on the ground, but we won’t stop doing it.”
Israel accuses the BDS movement of antisemitism and considers it as a serious threat while the movement’s activists reject these allegations and say they are only seeking to bring international community to exert economic pressure on the country to force it to rethink its policies regarding Palestinians, in the same way international pressure on South Africa led to the end of apartheid.