Israel deports director of Human Rights Watch in Palestine

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JERUSALEM – Israel deported the director of the international NGO Human Rights Watch (HRW) for Israel and Palestine, Omar Shakir, for allegedly supporting the boycott campaign against Israel.

HRW has claimed that with the expulsion of Shakir, Israel has placed itself in the “ugly club” of authoritarian regimes.

Shakir lost a trial this month before the Supreme Court of Justice of Israel that focused on the ability of the State to expel those who criticize him.

The Israeli government refused to renew Shakir’s visa and this November 25 was the deadline for leaving the country.

At a press conference in Jerusalem, before taking his plane to leave Israel, Shakir condemned the decision of the Israeli Government and called it “attack” on human rights movements.

“If the Israelis can deport somebody documenting rights abuse without facing consequence, how can we ever stop rights abuse” Shakir asked.

Israel claims that its objections are not against HRW or human rights defenders but against Shakir, a US citizen. His case is a test in which a controversial 2017 law is applied that allows the Government to deport people who allegedly support the boycott of Israel or the Jewish colonies in occupied Palestinian territory.

All settlements are illegal under international law and the European Union passed legislation to force special labeling of products that come from settlements, so that the consumer knows what their origin is.

Under this law, Israel vetoed the entry into its territory, last August, of two US congressmen who were very critical of Israeli policies, Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib.

Later, Israel accepted a request from Tlaib, of Palestinian origin, to visit his family in the West Bank on the condition that he not express his views on the boycott. But Tlaib refused to accept the conditions, which he described as “oppressive.”

Since the law was passed, tailored against the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel, this country has banned numerous human rights activists from entering the country, but Shakir is the first to be expelled to through this regulation.

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The executive director of HRW, Kenneth Roth, who wanted to be in Jerusalem this November 25 to support Shakir and accompanied him at the press conference, denied that the NGO that he heads, based in New York, nor Shakir have supported or supported the boycott against Israel.

Roth stressed that pressuring companies to learn about the abuses that the Israeli occupation commits is not the same as supporting a boycott.

In that regard, HRW insisted that Airbnb withdraw offers for apartment rentals in Jewish colonies in occupied territory because they are contrary to international law.

“It is a standard process for human rights groups to insist that companies avoid being complicit in human rights violations,” said the HRW executive director at the press conference.

“Omar applied the same usual principles of requesting companies that do not support illegal settlements … HRW has never called for a boycott against Israel,” Roth added.

Shakir will have to continue his distance work from Amman, the Jordanian capital.

“It is standard procedure that human rights groups insist that businesses avoid complicity in human rights violations,” said Roth, who travelled to Jerusalem for the press conference. “Omar applied those same principles to ask businesses not to support Israel’s illegal settlements … Human Rights Watch has never urged a boycott of Israel.”

The executive director of HRW said Omar’s expulsion will intensify his work on the abuses committed by Israel and Palestinian groups such as the Islamist Hamas movement.

The United Nations and the European Union criticized the decision to deport Shakir and asked Israel to reverse it.

The United Kingdom urged Israel to allow civil society organizations to operate freely .

Shakir said that being forced to leave Israel was a minor obstacle compared to the increasingly suffocating atmosphere that exists for Israeli and Palestinian rights defenders, who had suffered travel bans, arrests and raids in their offices.

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