Israeli court hears appeal against HRW official's expulsion

Israeli court hears appeal against HRW official's expulsion
2 min read
24 September, 2019
A decision is expected in the days or weeks ahead in the case of Omar Shakir, a director from Human Rights Watch who faces expulsion from Israel.
Israel has sought to expel Human Rights Watch's Israel and Palestine director Omar Shakir [AFP/Getty]

Israel's Supreme Court on Tuesday heard an appeal against the government's bid to expel a senior Human Rights Watch (HRW) official over his alleged support of a boycott of the country.

A decision is expected in the days or weeks ahead in the case that the New York-based HRW says is part of a bid by Israel to silence and delegitimise critics of its treatment of the Palestinians.

It would be the first expulsion of its kind under a 2017 law allowing the expulsion of foreigners who support a boycott of Israel, though there have been other cases of people being denied entry under the measure.

Israel has sought to expel Omar Shakir, HRW director for Israel and the Palestinian territories, for more than a year.

Its case was based largely on comments Shakir made before joining HRW in which he had praised the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement.

The movement calls for a boycott of Israel over its treatment of the Palestinians.

HRW says it has criticised Israel's rights record but has never advocated a boycott - and the same is true for Shakir since he joined the organisation.

An earlier court ruling found that the initial expulsion order was based on "old facts", HRW said, but the government has since added new statements it alleges are in support of a boycott.

"It's quite clear what the government is trying to do," Shakir told journalists after Tuesday's hearing.

"They want to delegitimise basic human rights advocacy for Palestinian rights."

Israel's ministry of strategic affairs, which probes potential violations of the 2017 law, alleges Shakir's activism, particularly related to the country's occupation of the West Bank, has amounted to calls for a boycott.

Shakir "portrays himself as a human rights activist while exploiting his stay in the country to call for boycotts against the state of Israel", the ministry said in a statement.

It called him a "promoter of BDS".

Israel sees the movement as a strategic threat and accuses it of anti-Semitism - a claim activists strongly deny.

In July, HRW's executive director Kenneth Roth said by expelling Shakir Israel would be joining a "very ugly group" of countries - including North Korea and Iran - that harass the organisation.

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