An Israeli court on Tuesday ordered the deportation of Human Rights Watch's Omar Shakir over his advocacy work against illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank.
"Israeli authorities should focus on ending their serious human rights abuses rather than muzzling groups reporting on them."
—Tom Porteous, Human Rights Watch
The court's decision marks the first time Israel's draconian "anti-boycott law" has been applied to someone already legally present in the country.
Shakir, HRW's Israel and Palestine director, has called on businesses to "cease operations" in illegal Israeli settlements and expressed support for individuals' right to participate in boycotts against Israel.
Israel said Shakir's advocacy work amounts to support for the boycott, divestment, and sanctions movement (BDS), which the country has criminalized.
Tom Porteous, deputy program director at HRW, said in a statement that Israel's efforts to deport Shakir are part of a broader attempt to muzzle critics of the country's brutal occupation of Palestinian territories.
"Israel portrays itself as the region's only democracy, but is set to deport a rights defender over his peaceful advocacy," said Porteous.
"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," he added.
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HRW—which told the court (pdf) it does not take an official position on the BDS movement—said it plans to appeal the ruling.
"Israeli authorities should focus on ending their serious human rights abuses rather than muzzling groups reporting on them," Porteous said.
Israeli court asked me to vow not to call for "boycotts"- defined under law to include asking companies to respect their human rights responsibilities by ceasing activities in illegal settlements. I refused. Court approved my deportation, citing my refusal https://t.co/GtN6uW3M8O pic.twitter.com/0mALvjOoX9
— Omar Shakir (@OmarSShakir) April 17, 2019
The Israeli court's ruling comes just days after Omar Barghouti, co-founder of the BDS movement, was barred from boarding a plane to the U.S. at Ben Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv.
According to NPR, American immigration officials last Thursday "ordered the U.S. consul in Tel Aviv to deny [Barghouti] permission to enter the United States." Israel denied involvement in the decision.
In a statement, Barghouti accused Israel of "outsourcing its outrageous, McCarthyite repression to the U.S. and to xenophobic, far-right cohorts across the world."