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The New Arab

Israel 'joins the ugly club' by deporting human rights champion

Shakir was flown out of Israel on Monday [Twitter]

Date of publication: 25 November, 2019

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The Human Rights Watch Israel and Palestine director has been forced out of the country.
Israel joined a notorious list of countries that have barred Human Rights Watch researchers from their country, when the group's Palestine and Israel director was deported on Monday.

Omar Shakir had lost a lengthy legal battle to prevent the Israeli government expelling him, after he was accused of supporting the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign, known as BDS. 

By Monday afternoon, the human rights campaigner was put on a plane and flown out of the country, leading to outrage from NGOs.

Human Rights Watch Director Kenneth Roth earlier condemned Israel's decision to expel Shakir, which would make it the "first democracy" to bar one its workers.

"I cannot think of another democracy that has barred a Human Rights Watch researcher," Roth told AFP in Jerusalem.

"I think it demonstrates the increasingly constrained nature of Israeli democracy."

Other countries to have barred Human Rights Watch researchers include North Korea, Syria and Iran.

"Israel today is joining that ugly club of governments," Roth added.

Shakir was expelled under a controversial 2017 law, which allows for the deportation of foreigners who support a boycott of Israel, although HRW denies that the American NGO worker backs the BDS campaign.

After a lengthy legal battle, Shakir was whisked out of the country on Monday by Israeli authorities.

"On a [plane], so it's official: Israel has expelled me over my @hrw advocacy, joining Syria, Egypt & Bahrain in barring me access. But we we won’t be silent - en route to brief six European govts in 8 days & address European Parliament on Israel's systematic repression of Palestinians," Shakir tweeted, with a picture of him seated on a plane next to the Human Rights Watch director.

Earlier, Roth vowed that HRW would not bow to Israel's pressure to replace Shakir.

"We could replace him, but at his whole time at Human Rights Watch, Omar simply promoted Human Rights Watch policy... [we] do not endorse BDS, nor did Omar during his whole tenure with the organisation," he said.

"Our next researcher would have the exact same problem Omar [Shakir] did... promoting our policy that businesses should avoid complicity with Israel's illegal settlements... so we're not going to replace Omar." 

US-based pro-Israel activist group J-Street also condemned the move.

"Today, Israel is deporting @OmarSShakir
over the work he and @hrw have done in the occupied territories. J Street and the Progressive Israel Network continue to strongly oppose this decision, which is deeply harmful to Israel's democratic character," the group tweeted.

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