Israel orders HRW official deported



Tue, 08 May 2018 - 11:32 GMT


Tue, 08 May 2018 - 11:32 GMT

“Israeli authorities should reverse the decision, HRW stands fully behind Shakir,” HRW said in a statement on May 8, 2018 – Photo illustrated by Egypt Today/Mohamed Zain

“Israeli authorities should reverse the decision, HRW stands fully behind Shakir,” HRW said in a statement on May 8, 2018 – Photo illustrated by Egypt Today/Mohamed Zain

CAIRO – 9 May 2018: The Israeli Interior Ministry on Tuesday said it had ordered the representative of Human Rights Watch (HRW) in Tel Aviv to leave within 14 days, accusing him of supporting a boycott against Israel.

Omar Shakir, the Human Rights Watch Israel and Palestine director, posted on Twitter that the Israeli government has ordered him deported after compiling a 7-pg intel dossier on him.

“First time in HRW history Israel orders official out. Year ago it denied work permit before reversing, accusing us of 'propaganda'. Now its BDS. Real aim to muzzle dissent,” Shakir added to his post.

The international non-governmental organization criticized Israel for the decision as it said on Twitter, “Why has Israel, which refers to itself as lone democracy in the region, joined ranks of North Korea, Sudan & Iran that block access to HRW and ordered country director Omar Shakir deported?”

HRW said in a Tuesday statement that the decision showed that Israel was seeking to suppress criticism of its human rights record, and that it would challenge the decision in court.

“Authorities based the decision on a dossier a government ministry compiled on Shakir’s activities spanning over a decade, almost all of them predating his HRW employment,” the statement said. “The decision comes a year after the Interior Ministry granted HRW a permit to employ Shakir as a foreign expert, after initially refusing to issue it.

“Israeli authorities should reverse the decision, HRW stands fully behind Shakir.”

According to the HRW official website, in 2011, Israeli authorities passed a law allowing people to file lawsuits and seek damages against anyone who publicly calls for boycotts of Israel, defined to include boycotts of settlements.

On Nov. 16, 2017, the Israeli Interior Ministry notified HRW that, based on a private lawsuit filed in a district court in Jerusalem challenging the work permit, it had initiated a review of Shakir’s status in Israel.

In December, the Strategic Affairs and Public Diplomacy Ministry furnished a dossier “on Shakir’s activities in the boycott field over the years.” It included a recommendation, endorsed by the strategic affairs and public diplomacy minister, Gilad Erdan, that “Shakir should be stripped of his work visa and denied re-entry into the country.”

HRW applied in January 2018 to extend Shakir’s work visa, which was due to expire on March 31. On March 29, the Interior Ministry extended the visa for a month pending a decision on revocation.

In March 2017, an amendment to the Law of Entry, cited in the May 7 letter, empowered authorities to refuse entry into the country to activists who publicly call for or have committed to participate in a boycott against Israel.

Last year, Israel initially denied Shakir, who has denied the accusations against him, a work permit, in a move criticized by the U.S. government, pushing Israel to grant him a one-year work visa.

“Troubling to see this action taken against my colleague and HRW; democratic values require ensuring space for robust debate, free expression & of course human rights advocacy.” Human rights researcher and attorney Steve Swerdlow posted on Twitter.

“Having been in these shoes in another part of the globe can say muzzling the messenger is not the answer,” Swerdlow added.

On Tuesday Israeli Interior Minister Aryeh Deri said he had acted on the recommendation of Gilad Erdan, the minister for strategic affairs, whose department said it had gathered data that Shakir had for years supported a boycott of Israel.

“It is inconceivable that a boycott activist can receive a permit to remain in Israel so that he can act in every possible way against the state. I will use all means to expel such people from the country,” Deri’s statement said.

“Israeli minister of interior proudly announces that he is deporting HRW's representative from Israel,” Sari Bashi, Israel Palestine advocacy director of Human Rights Watch. “Does he think he can hide Israeli human rights abuses by getting rid of those who document them?”



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