Israel expels HRW representative for ‘supporting pro-Palestine campaign’
Israel has ordered the head of the local office of Human Rights Watch to leave the occupied territories within two weeks after accusing him of supporting a pro-Palestine boycott campaign against the Zionist entity.
Omar Shakir, a US citizen of Iraqi descent, said on Twitter that he had been ordered out of the Israeli-occupied territories after the regime compiled a seven-page intelligence dossier against the senior activist.
“First time in [Human Rights Watch] history Israel orders official out,” he tweeted. “Year ago it denied work permit before reversing, accusing us of ‘propaganda’. Now its BDS [boycott, divestment and sanctions]. Real aim to muzzle dissent.”
Israel had initially denied Shakir a work permit last year, in a move criticized by the US. It later granted him a one-year work visa.
Meanwhile, the New York-based human rights monitor said it would stand by Shakir, slamming Israel for trying to suppress criticism of its human rights record and saying it would challenge the decision in court.
Iain Levine, an HRW official said, “This is not about Shakir, but rather about muzzling Human Rights Watch and shutting down criticism of Israel’s rights record.”
Aryeh Deri, the Israeli interior minister, alleged Shakir is a “boycott activist” and said he “will act to expel people like this” with all means at his disposal.
“It is inconceivable that a boycott activist can receive a permit to remain in Israel,” he said.
Speaking to Reuters, Shakir has denied the accusations against him.
“I have not called for any form of boycott of Israel during my time at Human Rights Watch and the Interior Ministry acknowledged this in its letter to me … in which they informed me of their decision to deny an extension to my work visa.”
Earlier this year, Israel published a list of 20 organizations whose activists will be barred from entering the occupied territories due to their support for boycott campaigns.
Israel’s strategic affairs ministry has been allocated $36m to combat the BDS movement.
The BDS movement was initiated in 2005 by over 170 Palestinian organizations and later turned international. It is meant to initiate “various forms of boycott against Israel until it meets its obligations under international law” and end its occupation of Palestinian lands.