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News > World

Israel to Deport Human Rights Watch Local Chief over BDS Ties

  • Conservative Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

    Conservative Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. | Photo: Reuters

Published 9 May 2018

HRW said the decision seeks to "muzzle and shut down criticisim of Israel's rights record."

Israel is deporting the Israel and Palestine director of Human Rights Watch (HRW), Omar Shakir, after revoking his work permit on May 7 and ordering him to leave Israel in 14 days citing he is involved with the pro-Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement. Shakir has rejected the accusation.

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Deputy executive director for programs at HRW Ian Levine said Israel’s decision “ is not about Shakir, but rather about muzzling Human Rights Watch and shutting down criticism of Israel’s rights record.”

On Wednesday the Palestinian Prisoner’s Society (PPS) condemned the decision saying it aims at silencing rights’ organizations and activists. “With these acts, Israel is trying to censor the truth,” the PPS statement said.

HRW has announced they will challenge the decision before an Israeli court.

According to the organization, in February 2017 Israel’s Interior Ministry denied Shakir a work permit arguing the organization’s “public activities and reports have engaged in politics in the service of Palestinian propaganda.”

The ministry later reversed course, granting Human Rights Watch a permit in March 2017 and issuing Shakir a one-year work visa on April 26, 2017.

The intelligence dossier compiled by Israeli authorities included Shakir's pro-Palestine activities decades ago when he was a Stanford University student.

"The organization co-founded by Shakir was previously named Students Confronting Apartheid by Israel. We note that it is currently a branch of Students for Justice in Palestine," the dossier reads. The organization was founded in the early nineties, over a decade before the BDS movement was launched. 

In March 2017 Israeli authorities approved an amendment to the Law of Entry allowing immigration authorities to deny entry for activists who publicly call for or participate in the international BDS campaign.

HRW contends they do not promote boycotts of Israel. However they recognize in their website that “businesses operating in settlements inherently benefit from and contribute to serious violations of international humanitarian law and, on that basis and as part of its global efforts to urge companies to meet their human rights responsibilities, has called for companies to cease operations in settlements.”

For almost three decades the organization has had access to Israel and the West Bank.

According to Levine, Shakir’s deportation is “only the latest among many recent examples of Israel’s growing intolerance of those who criticize its human rights record,” including the recent refusal of entry to a French mayor and the failed attempt to do so to Dublin's mayor

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