Human Rights Watch (HRW) vowed today to keep on documenting Israeli abuses of the Palestinians despite the deportation of its Palestine director Omar Shakir, according to an HRW statement, saying the deportation “reflects the [Israeli] authorities’ intensifying assault on human rights.”
Shakir will depart Israel later tonight after Israel’s Supreme Court upheld the government’s deportation order on November 5 and gave him until November 25 to leave.
HRW said Shakir will continue to monitor human rights abuses in the occupied territories from another HRW office in the region.
Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch, said the deportation of Shakir “will not succeed in hiding [Israel’s] human rights abuses.”
He said that this decision “shows why the international community must reboot its approach to Israel’s deteriorating human rights record. 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.”
Israel revoked the work visa of Shakir, a United States citizen, in May 2018 on the asserted grounds that his advocacy violated a 2017 law that bars entry to people who advocate a boycott of Israel or its settlements in the occupied West Bank. A district court in April, and then the Israeli Supreme Court, found that this position constitutes grounds for deportation under an expansive reading of the 2017 law.
“Neither Human Rights Watch nor Shakir as its representative has ever called for a boycott of Israel. Human Rights Watch has urged businesses to stop operating in illegal settlements as part of their global duty to avoid complicity in human rights abuses – just as it calls on businesses to comply with this duty in many other countries,” said HRW in its statement.
Recently, Israeli authorities have sought to undermine the work of human rights activists, including denying entry to a number of other international rights defenders, maligning Israeli rights advocates, imposing burdensome financial reporting requirements on them, and raiding the offices of and arresting Palestinian rights defenders. In October, Israeli authorities prevented an Amnesty International staff member from traveling out of the occupied West Bank for undisclosed “security reasons.”
This is the first time the government has used the 2017 law to try to deport someone who is lawfully inside Israel and the first time it has ordered a Human Rights Watch staff member to leave in the organization’s 30 years of working in the country, said HRW.
“Today, Israel deports Shakir because Human Rights Watch urges businesses to shun illegal settlements,” said Roth. “Who’s next – someone who calls for the International Criminal Court to examine possible crimes in Israel and Palestine or correctly calls the West Bank 'occupied’ rather than 'disputed’?”