In Brief

Why is Israel deporting a human rights campaigner?

Omar Shaki loses his visa after authorities accuse him of promoting boycotts

Human Rights Watch says Israel has committed “an assault on human rights” with its decision to deport one of its activists.

The Supreme Court yesterday upheld the move of the Israeli government to revoke the work permit of US citizen Omar Shakir under a 2017 law that bars foreigners who have backed boycotts of Israel.

The Independent says the law used to deport Shakir “effectively criminalises” the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement — that encourages countries, business and groups to cut ties with Israel over its occupation of the West Bank.

Responding to the ruling, Kenneth Roth, executive director of HRW, placed Israel in a list of other countries to have banned the organisation’s researchers.  

“Israel today joins the likes of Venezuela, Iran, and Egypt in barring Human Rights Watch researchers, but it, too, will not succeed in hiding its human rights abuses,” he said.

Roth called on the international community to “reboot its approach to Israel's deteriorating human rights record” and warned that “a government that expels a leading human rights investigator is not likely to stop its systematic oppression of Palestinians under occupation without much greater international pressure”.

Shakir told The Times of Israel that, despite having his Israeli visa revoked, he will remain in his current position, though he will be working from Amman, Jordan.

He denied that either he or HRW has called for an outright boycott of Israel. “This has never been about BDS, it has always been about the Israeli government’s efforts to muzzle Human Rights Watch,” he said.

He added: “If the Israelis can deport somebody documenting rights abuse without facing consequence, how can we ever stop rights abuse?”

However, the Israeli ministry of strategic affairs said Shakir had “zealously” promoted boycotts against the country and insisted that their quarrel was with Shakir, rather than human rights campaigners in general.

“Israel, like any sane country, has the right to decide who is given the freedom to enter and work within its borders,” a government statement said.

“HRW is welcome to appoint another coordinator in place of Mr Shakir who will actually deal with the protection of human rights rather than focus on promoting policies that harm Israeli citizens,” it added.

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