Israel expels Human Rights Watch official

Israeli authorities revoked the work permit of Omar Shakir, the director of Human Rights Watch’s office in Jerusalem.

Israel has ordered Shakir to leave the country within 14 days, Human Rights Watch announced on Tuesday.

Israel’s strategic affairs ministry said the decision was based on Shakir’s support for the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement, but Shakir said the “real aim is to muzzle dissent.”

In a response to Israel’s interior ministry, Human Rights Watch stated that “neither HRW – nor Shakir as its representative – advocate boycott, divestment or sanctions.”

“This is not about Shakir, but rather about muzzling Human Rights Watch and shutting down criticism of Israel’s rights record,” Human Rights Watch official Iain Levine stated.

Last month, Human Rights Watch accused Israel of carrying out a “calculated” campaign of killing unarmed Palestinians taking part in the Great March of Return protests in the Gaza Strip.

The group also urged the International Criminal Court to open “a formal investigation into serious international crimes in Palestine.”

Human Rights Watch reiterated its full support for Shakir and said it has retained lawyers “to challenge the decision before an Israeli court.”

Support for BDS

The strategic affairs ministry, which leads Israel’s well-funded effort to combat the growing global movement in support of Palestinian rights, compiled a dossier of Shakir’s activities, which it said demonstrates his support for BDS.

BDS is a nonviolent movement to exert pressure on Israel. Launched by Palestinians in 2005, it takes inspiration from the successful global campaign to isolate apartheid South Africa in the 1980s.

While Israel and its supporters attempt to paint BDS activism as nefarious, several consistently pro-Israel governments, such as Sweden, the Netherlands, Ireland and the European Union have acknowledged that BDS advocacy falls well within the bounds of protected free speech.

But as Israel has acknowledged that its efforts to thwart the growth of the BDS movement have failed, it has turned to increasingly repressive measures.

In January, Israel published a blacklist of 20 human rights organizations whose members would be banned from entry.

Pretext for expulsion

Israel has a well-established record of profiling US citizens and others based on their ethnicity or religion.

In keeping with that record, the dossier mentions that Shakir, a US citizen, is of Iraqi origin without explaining how that is relevant to its claims.

Most activities listed in the dossier predate Shakir’s employment with Human Rights Watch and relate to his activism as a student at Stanford University, calling for full and equal rights for Palestinians.

One pretext cited in the dossier for expelling Shakir is that he shared on Twitter an article written by scholar Steven Salaita and published by The Electronic Intifada in 2014.

The dossier describes The Electronic Intifada as “one of the major platforms for the promotion of delegitimation and boycott campaigns against Israel.”

The dossier also cites how Shakir is mentioned in In Our Power: US Students Organize for Justice in Palestine, a book by Electronic Intifada editor Nora Barrows-Friedman, “as an individual committed to work to ‘end the occupation and to have a liberated Jerusalem’ by 2030.”

In the book, though not cited in the Israeli government’s dossier, Shakir describes his commitment to human rights in a manner entirely consistent with his future work with Human Rights Watch.

“The reality is that it’s a human rights issue,” he says of the situation in Palestine. “It’s a conflict about land, resources and human rights, and a system of inequality that deprives people of those rights on the basis of their background.”

Israel repeatedly denied Human Rights Watch a work permit to employ Shakir last year, but eventually granted it.

This is the first time in Human Rights Watch history that Israel has ordered an official to be deported, Shakir wrote on Twitter.

“This is not what democracies do”

Late last month, Israel denied entry to Vincent Warren, the executive director of the Center for Constitutional Rights, and Katherine Franke, chair of CCR’s board and law professor at Columbia University.

Warren and Franke were part of a delegation to witness human rights violations in Palestine.

Israeli officers interrogated them, accusing Franke of being a leader of BDS and trying to enter in order to “promote BDS in Palestine,” Franke told The Electronic Intifada Podcast.

Commenting on Israel’s decision to expel Shakir, Warren tweeted that “This is not what democracies do. Outrageous.”

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This together with their targeting of journalists is a concerted effort to shield their crimes and suppress the truth . What worries me most is their belligerence and blatant disregard of legitimate critism .
The Trump administration has given them carte Blanche to openly violate human rights and endorses the theft,murder and brutality they have been,and still are committing .
This is what happens when neo colonialist islamophobes endorse Theft . The UN remains toothless .

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Tamara Nassar

Tamara Nassar is an assistant editor at The Electronic Intifada.