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Israeli Supreme Court greenlights deportation of HRW official Omar Shakir

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The Israeli Supreme Court ruled on Tuesday to uphold the state’s decision to deport Human Rights Watch’s (HRW) Israel and Palestine Director Omar Shakir, over accusations that he advocates for the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement — the international Palestinian-led boycott campaign criminalized by Israel in recent years.

The decision came after a more than year-long battle between Shakir, a U.S. citizen, and the Israeli Ministry of Interior, which refused to renew his work visa in 2018 under the pretext that he violated a 2017 law banning foreign nationals who support anti-Israel boycotts.

Tuesday’s decision was a response to an appeal launched by Shakir in April following a Jerusalem district court’s decision to uphold the ministry’s refusal of his visa.

According to HRW, the decision whether to force Shakir to leave the country still rests with the Israeli government. If the latter chooses to continue with the deportation, he must abandon his post in Jerusalem and leave the country within 20 days.

Israeli Interior Minister Aryeh Deri praised the decision, saying “anyone who acts against the country should know we will not allow them to work or live here.”

Shakir took to Twitter to comment on his deportation, saying Israel will “join ranks of Iran, North Korea & Egypt in blocking access for @hrw official. We won’t stop. And we won’t be the last.”

“The Supreme Court has effectively declared that free expression in Israel does not include completely mainstream advocacy for Palestinian rights,” HRW executive director Kenneth Roth said in a statement.

“If the government now deports Human Rights Watch’s researcher for asking businesses to respect rights as we do across the world, there’s no telling whom it will throw out next,” he said.

In its official statement on the decision, HRW reiterated Shakir’s position that he never promoted the BDS movement, saying “Shakir never deviated from the policies and positions of the organization, which does not advocate a boycott of Israel but urges businesses to fulfill their human rights responsibilities by ending ties with illegal West Bank settlements.”

An outpouring of support for Shakir flooded social media, with everyone from US politicians to other human rights organizations expressing their solidarity with the official.

“Solidarity with Omar Shakir for standing up for human rights regardless of the consequences,” US Congresswoman Ilhan Omar wrote on Twitter. Omar was banned from entering Israel earlier this year, also over her support of the BDS movement.

“This is the silencing of political dissent. Deporting and blocking critics who speak out against human rights abuses goes against basic democratic values,” she continued.

New York-based advocacy group Center for Constitutional Rights (CRC) released a statement condemning the move, calling it “outrageous, but not shocking.”

“Each time advocates for Palestinian rights are silenced or punished, it instead draws more attention to—and multiplies—Israel’s long list of human rights violations,” CRC said. “We stand in solidarity with Shakir, Human Rights Watch, and the many other human rights defenders – Palestinian, Israeli, and from around the world – standing up for justice in Palestine.”

Israeli human rights group B’Tselem expressed their solidarity with Shakir in a statement on Facebook, saying “efforts to hide the occupation and silence criticism against it are bound to fail.”

B’Tselem stands in solidarity with our colleagues at HRW. Efforts to hide the occupation and silence criticism against…

Posted by ‎B'Tselem בצלם‎ on Tuesday, November 5, 2019

“The decision reflects perfectly the state of affairs at the highest judicial institution in Israel — not rule of law, but legal propaganda at the service of the occupation,” B’Tselem’s director Hagai El-Ad said.

“In essence, the HCJ’s ruling grants a legal seal of approval to the further shrinking of the already limited space in Israel to oppose the occupation. For decades, this space is non-existent for Palestinians; now, it will be diminished further for international stakeholders; and soon, also for Israelis.”

Yumna Patel

Yumna Patel is the Palestine correspondent for Mondoweiss.

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6 Responses

  1. pabelmont on November 6, 2019, 3:55 pm

    This is more (and other) than silencing dissent inside Israel. They say that they seek to silence dissent within Israel but what they really seek is to exclude unfriendly eyes.

    This is preventing witness, preventing “watching” as Israel has done with UN observers it does not wish to be observed by. Israel wants its crimes to go unobserved, unremarked, indescribed, unwitnessed,

    In much the same way, US prisons (and perhaps especially private prisons and prisons and detention centers for immigrants these days) seek to prevent witness, prevent observers, prevent human rights enthusiasts from seeing what is going on. Israel is not alone.

    • Misterioso on November 7, 2019, 10:17 am

      @pabelmont, et al

      MUST WATCH!!

      November 6/19, “Pushback with Aaron Maté”

      Eminent Jewish Canadian physician and defender of the Palestinians, Dr. Gabor Maté – “On the misuse of anti-Semitism and why fewer Jews identify with Israel.”

      “Physician, mental health expert, and best-selling author Dr. Gabor Maté, a survivor of the Nazi Holocaust, offers a personal and historical perspective on anti-Semitism, Zionism, and Israel-Palestine.”

  2. Misterioso on November 7, 2019, 9:51 am

    Heads up! Latest book Re Gaza by Dr. Norman Finkelstein:

    “Gaza: An Inquest into Its Martyrdom” By Dr. Norman Finkelstein, 2019

    “‘In its comprehensive sweep, deep probing and acute critical analysis, Finkelstein’s study stands alone.’ —Noam Chomsky

    “‘No one who ventures an opinion on Gaza . . . is entitled to do so without taking into account the evidence in this book.’ —The Intercept

    “The Gaza Strip is among the most densely populated places in the world. More than two-thirds of its inhabitants are refugees, and more than half are under eighteen years of age. Since 2004, Israel has launched eight devastating ‘operations’ against Gaza’s largely defenseless population. Thousands have perished, and tens of thousands have been left homeless. In the meantime, Israel has subjected Gaza to a merciless illegal blockade.

    “What has befallen Gaza is a man-made humanitarian disaster.

    “Based on scores of human rights reports, Norman G. Finkelstein’s new book presents a meticulously researched inquest into Gaza’s martyrdom. He shows that although Israel has justified its assaults in the name of self-defense, in fact these actions constituted flagrant violations of international law.

    “But Finkelstein also documents that the guardians of international law—from Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch to the UN Human Rights Council—ultimately failed Gaza. One of his most disturbing conclusions is that, after Judge Richard Goldstone’s humiliating retraction of his UN report, human rights organizations succumbed to the Israeli juggernaut.

    “Finkelstein’s magnum opus is both a monument to Gaza’s martyrs and an act of resistance against the forgetfulness of history.”

  3. CHUCKMAN on November 7, 2019, 12:14 pm

    How on earth would it possible for anyone actively keeping track of human rights in Israel and the occupied territories to not be an advocate of BDS?

    It is the only peaceful lever anyone has come up with against one of the world’s most shameful human rights situations.

    A situation which does not change because the world’s most powerful country, the United States, refuses to lift a finger to change anything.

    Indeed, it actively works to bend every possible international institution, such as the UN, to its will in the matter.

  4. genesto on November 7, 2019, 1:28 pm

    First they came for the Palestinians —————

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