Israel expels HRW representative for 'supporting pro-Palestine campaign'

Sergio Conner
May 13, 2018

The interior ministry said Tuesday it had terminated the residency permit of Omar Shakir, a U.S. citizen, over accusations that he supports a boycott of Israel.

The May 7 letter notes that the decision "does not constitute a principled or sweeping refusal for the organization to employ a foreign expert", but rather relates specifically to Shakir. Rather, his removal is simply an opportunity for Gilad Erdan-the head of make-work "Strategic Affairs" ministry given to the Likud #2 after he didn't receive a real cabinet post-to pander to the right-wing base by showing up the Israel haters.

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.

HRW watch have accused Israel of muzzling criticism after it gave the group's Israel and Palestine director two weeks to leave the country, accusing him of promoting a boycott movement. On March 29, the Interior Ministry extended the visa for a month pending a decision on revocation.

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

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"Following the recommendations of the ministry of strategic affairs, containing information that Shakir has been a BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) activist for years supporting the boycott of Israel in an active way, the ministry has made a decision to terminate (his) residence permit", the interior ministry said in a statement. Human Rights Watch also defends individuals' right to express their views through nonviolent means, including participating in boycotts.

"The reality is that it's a human rights issue", he says of the situation in Palestine.

Israel's Strategic Affairs Ministry, created in 2006, has dedicated significant resources to monitoring critics of Israeli policy. It monitors rights violations in more than 90 counties across the world, including all 19 countries in the Middle East and North Africa. Human Rights Watch shared the Nobel Peace Prize in 1997 as a founding member of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines. Neither closing the borders to human rights groups and activists nor other Israeli measures against organizations critical of the occupation will deter us - or them - from reporting human rights violations in areas under Israeli control.

Monday's decision comes within a broader Israeli crackdown on pro-Palestinian activists and foreigners seen as supporting the Palestinian cause.

"With these acts, Israel is trying to censor the truth", it said.

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