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Israel to deport Human Rights Watch director

Human Rights Watch (HRW) official Omar Shakir [Twitter]
Human Rights Watch (HRW) official Omar Shakir [Twitter]

Israel will deport the Director of Human Rights Watch (HRW)’s regional office, Omar Shakir, refusing a Supreme Court petition.

On Thursday the Israeli government submitted its response to a Supreme Court petition previously filed by Shakir in a bid to fight the deportation order against him. The response stated that: “[Shakir] promoted the boycott of Israel for many years, and since joining the human rights organization [HRW] he continued his calls to boycott Israel on his personal Twitter account.”

The Israeli government also claimed that Shakir – who is an American citizen of Iraqi origin – wanted to go to Bahrain to promote a boycott of Israel at the International Federation of Football Association (FIFA) conference in 2017, and that he previously attempted to establish an organisation calling for the boycott of Israel while studying at Stanford University in the US.

Read: Knesset committee hears criticism of government’s secretive anti-BDS work

Thursday’s decision comes after a several-year-long ordeal for Shakir at the hands of the Israeli government. The initial decision to deport Shakir was made by Israel’s Interior Minister, Aryeh Deri, on the recommendation of the Minister of Strategic Affairs, Gilad Erdan. Deri declared that Shakir should be deported and that his residence permit be revoked.

The deportation order was seen as a direct response to the Knesset’s ratification, in March 2017, of a bill prohibiting foreign citizens who call for a boycott of Israel from obtaining work or residency visas. In December of that year, the Israeli Ministry of Strategic Affairs and Internal Security presented a file on “Shakir’s activities of boycott over the years, which included a recommendation that: “Shakir should be deprived of his work visa and thus prevented from returning to the country.”

In May 2018, Deri issued an order to cancel Shakir’s work permit and deport him on the pretext of “his activity against Israel”, prompting Shakir to petition the Israeli Supreme Court.

The Israeli government then requested a postponement of its response to the Supreme Court petition, pending a response to another petition filed by Palestinian-American student Lara Alqasem. Alqasem was detained at Israel’s Ben Gurion Airport on the grounds that she is active in the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, yet in October the Supreme Court ruled that she would not be deported since the anti-BDS law did not apply to her case.

Read: Israel’s war on BDS faces backlash

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