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'What Fascism Looks Like': Israeli High Court Upholds Expulsion of Human Rights Watch Director Omar Shakir Over Alleged BDS Support

"The perpetuation of the occupation continues to mean the silencing of criticism."

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.

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)

The Israeli Supreme Court on Tuesday upheld the deportation and permanent expulsion of Omar Shakir, the Human Rights Watch representative in Israel and Palestine, over Shakir's alleged support of the Boycott, Divestments, and Sanctions movement, a move that drew criticism from peace advocates and progressives around the world. 

"This is what fascism looks like," tweeted Palestinian rights advocate Diana Buttu.

"The perpetuation of the occupation continues to mean the silencing of criticism,"
—J-Street

The court gave Shakir 20 days to leave the country.

As Common Dreams reported, Interior Minister Arye Dery decided in April to expel Shakir, a U.S. citizen, from Israel over Shakir's alleged support of the BDS movement.

The high court on Tuesday ruled that decision was legal due to a controversial 2017 Israeli law banning proponents of the boycott movement from entering or remaining in Israel. Dery said the ruling affirms his position that "anyone who works against the state should know that we will not allow him to live or work here."

Shakir's attorney Michael Sfard told Haaretz that the ruling made clear Israel is joining what he described as other repressive regimes in barring those who would expose misbehavior from their countries.

"Today, the State of Israel joined the list of countries like Syria, Iran, and North Korea, which have expelled Human Rights Watch representatives in an attempt to silence criticism of human rights violations taking place within their borders," said Sfard.

But, according to The New York Times, Human Rights Watch believes Shakir was expelled for his work against Israeli settlements in the West Bank rather than any advocacy in favor of BDS:

Human Rights Watch says neither it nor Shakir has called for an outright boycott of Israel and says that Shakir, who is a U.S. citizen, is being targeted for the rights group's opposition to Israel's West Bank Jewish settlements and its calls for companies to stop working with the settlements.

Critics of the move sounded off on social media.

"The perpetuation of the occupation continues to mean the silencing of criticism," liberal U.S. Israeli advocacy group J-Street said on Twitter. "Democracies should not expel human rights organizers."

In a statement, Amnesty International deputy Middle East and North Africa director Saleh Higazi said the decision made it "explicitly clear that those who dare to speak out about human rights violations by the Israeli authorities will be treated as enemies of the state."

"Human rights defenders play an essential role in exposing the government's wrongdoing and fostering public debate," said Higazi. "Today's decision is a cowardly move that confirms Israel's oppressive intent on silencing independent human rights organizations at any cost."

"Israel, by definition, isn't a democracy."
—Hagai El-Ad, B-Tselem

"The world must not stay silent in the face of this travesty of justice," Higazi added. "The international community, including Israel's allies such as the U.S.A., have a responsibility to press Israel to reverse this reprehensible decision and make clear to them that this kind of blatant repression is completely unacceptable and will have consequences."

Israeli human rights group B'Tselem's executive director Hagai El-Ad said that while the expulsion was personally shocking, the decision by the high court was in line with Israeli efforts to restrict dissent over the occupation. 

"From a personal perspective, it's shocking and unsettling, to see Omar ordered to leave within 20 days," said El-Ad. "But from a professional/legal perspective, there's nothing in the ruling which isn't in line with earlier rulings by Israel's HCJ. The only novelty is the application of current Israeli legal dogma in order to deport Omar."

"Israel, by definition, isn't a democracy," El-Ad continued, adding that he hoped the decision would make that clearer to the international community.

"Either way," said El-Ad, "the fight continues."

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