The Jerusalem District Court on Tuesday ruled that the work permit of Omar Shakir, the Israel and Palestine Director at Human Rights Watch (HRW), should be canceled and that he should be deported from Israel by the end of the month.
The ruling upheld Minister of Strategic affairs Gilad Erdan and Minister of Interior Aryeh Deri’s order to deport Shakir, and rejected a lawsuit filed in May 2018 by HRW and Shakir challenging the government’s decision to revoke his work permit and the constitutionality of a 2017 law barring entry to Israel for people who advocate boycotts of Israel.
The court found that Shakir’s advocacy calling for a boycott of Israeli businesses in Judea and Samaria over alleged human rights abuses constitutes a call for a boycott on Israel.
“An Israeli court has reinstated my deportation, saying HRW’s work calling on businesses to stop facilitating abuses in settlements constitutes boycott,” Shakir tweeted, saying that he will appeal to the Supreme Court.
“Israel portrays itself as the region’s only democracy, but is set to deport a rights defender over his peaceful advocacy,” claimed Tom Porteous, deputy program director at HRW. “The decision sends the chilling message that those who criticize the involvement of businesses in serious abuses in Israeli settlements risk being barred from Israel and the Israeli-occupied West Bank.”
However, Anne Herzberg, Legal Advisor at NGO Monitor, justified the court’s ruling.
“After examining the evidence, the Court has recognized Omar Shakir’s and HRW’s major role in BDS campaigns and other aspects of political warfare against Israel. While we do not take a position on Israel’s visa policy in general, or toward Shakir or HRW specifically, it is important that their discriminatory agendas and long history of exploitation of human rights are exposed,” she said.
Erdan congratulated the court on its ruling and vowed to “continue to fight to exact a price from the BDS activists who are trying to harm Israel and its citizens. We will not allow the promotion of boycotts in the guise of a ‘human rights activist’ such as Shakir did.”
“The boycott activists must understand that there is a price for boycotting Israel and its residents,” he added. “No foreign party has the right to live in Israel and enjoy staying here while acting to harm the state of Israel and its citizens.”
Shakir has a long history of advocating against Israel. Before joining HRW when he was a student at Stanford University, Shakir established an organization calling for boycotts and divestment from Israel. Over the years he has consistently called for the support of the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement in conferences, and discussions and signed a petition to prevent a Muslim delegation from coming to Israel. On Youtube, Shakir can be seen calling Israel an apartheid state and promoting anti-Israel boycotts.
Even after joining HRW and entering Israel, he continued to encourage boycott activities through comments on his Twitter channel. He was personally involved in the activity to boycott clubs from Israel by FIFA, the international governing body of football, and worked to bring about Israel’s suspension from the organization.
Shakir also traveled to Bahrain to pressure FIFA to suspend Israeli football clubs from Judea and Samaria.
On Twitter, he urged the High Commissioner of the UN Human Rights Council to publish a UN database that includes names of companies operating in Judea and Samaria, exposing them to boycotts.
In addition, HRW prepared a report on Israel’s banking activity in Judea and Samaria, which recommends that investors ensure that their business relationship does not contribute to “serious human rights violations or international humanitarian law.”
Finally, Shakir praised Airbnb’s decision to remove its listings of Judea and Samaria properties, a decision it has since reversed, and called on other companies to follow suit.
Foreign Affairs spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon has called HRW a “blatantly hostile anti-Israeli organization whose reports have the sole purpose of harming Israel with no consideration whatsoever for the truth or reality.”