Israel Expels Human Rights Watch Director

    The Israeli government expelled the Israel and Palestine director of Human Rights Watch on Monday, officials from the organization said, the first such deportation under a 2017 law targeting supporters of a boycott movement.

    The director, Omar Shakir, departed after the Israeli Supreme Court ruled in favor of a deportation order from last year that had been delayed.

    Israel Expels Human Rights Watch Director

    That order is linked to a 2017 law that allows the country to bar entry for individuals who are seen as advocating for a boycott of Israel. The law has been used numerous times to deny entry to people at Israel’s airport or borders — and was invoked by the Israeli government to dissuade U.S. Reps. Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib from visiting Israel and the West Bank this summer.

    Israel Expels Human Rights Watch Director

    But activists said that Shakir was the first person who was living in Israel to be removed under the law.

    “Israel today joins the likes of Venezuela, Iran, and Egypt in barring Human Rights Watch researchers, but it, too, will not succeed in hiding its human rights abuses,” said Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch in a statement.

    The organization announced that Shakir would continue his work in the region, only operating from the Human Rights Watch office in Jordan.

    Its statement said that neither Human Rights Watch nor Shakir has actually called for a boycott of Israel, only urged businesses to cease operations in settlements in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

    Israel opted not to renew Shakir’s work visa in May 2018 on the grounds that he tried to get Israel suspended from FIFA and promoted a boycott on social media, Haaretz reported.

    Shakir challenged that decision in court, but the ruling was upheld in April. Then, Shakir’s appeal was heard in front of the Supreme Court, but was rejected earlier this month. He was given until today to leave the country.

    Shakir has another hearing request still pending.

    Molly Boigon is the investigative reporter at the Forward. Contact her at boigon@forward.com or follow her on Twitter @MollyBoigon

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