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'Chilling': Israeli Court Orders Deportation of Human Rights Watch's Omar Shakir Over Pro-Palestinian Activism

"Israel portrays itself as the region's only democracy, but is set to deport a rights defender over his peaceful advocacy."

Human Rights Watch's Israel and Palestine director Omar Shakir sits at his office in the West Bank city of Ramallah on May 9, 2018. (Photo: Abbas Momani/AFP/Getty Images)

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.

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.

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."

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