Supreme Court Upholds Expulsion of Human Rights Watch Director

Israel’s Supreme Court rejected on Tuesday, November 5, an appeal by the local director of Human Rights Watch against a decision by the state’s far-right government to expel him for allegedly supporting the international Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement. As a result, the court ruled, Omar Shakir must leave the country within 20 days. MK Ayman Odeh (Hadash), who leads the Joint List tweeted that Shakir’s expulsion “only proves to us and the world how much his work is needed.”

Omar Shakir

Omar Shakir (Photo: Human Rights Watch)

A lower court upheld in April an Interior Ministry decision not to renew Omar Shakir’s work visa and ordered him to leave the country, saying his advocacy against Israel’s settlements in the West Bank amounts to support for the Palestinian-led boycott movement. Israeli law allows barring entrance to the country of anyone who publicly supports a boycott of Israel or its West Bank settlements.

The court ruling was based on the 2017 amendment to the Prevention of Entry into Israel Law, which authorizes the interior minister to withhold temporary visas or residence to any non-Israeli citizen who has publicly called for or pledged to participate in a boycott of Israel. In August, Israel relied on this law to prevent Democratic US Congresswomen Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib from entering the country.

Last year, Israel’s Interior Ministry revoked Shakir’s work permit and ordered his deportation within two weeks. This was the first time that the Israeli government had used the 2017 amendment to its Law of Entry to deport someone already present in the country.

Human Rights Watch has said neither it nor Shakir has called for an outright boycott of Israel. It said Shakir, who is a US citizen, is being targeted for the rights group’s opposition to the settlements and its calls for companies to stop working with the settlements. Shakir has received support from some US lawmakers, including Congresswomen Tlaib and Omar.

Shakir’s attorney Michael Sfard said in a statement: “Today they are expelling Omar, tomorrow they will expel anyone who criticizes government policies in the West Bank.”

Last year, Israel denied entry to four human rights leaders from the United States who were visiting Israel and the West Bank to better understand the situation on the ground. The members who were deported include Vincent Warren, executive director of the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), and Katherine Franke, chair of CCR’s board and Sulzbacher Professor of Law, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at Columbia University. The two were questioned about their political affiliation with groups critical of Israel, and Franke was accused of being associated with the BDS movement.