Human Rights Watch (HRW) has condemned the decision by Israel to deport Omar Shakir, its director for Israel and the Palestinian territories.
Shakir, a US citizen, was placed on a flight out of Ben Gurion International Airport late Monday, after the Israeli Supreme Court upheld the government’s decision to expel him from Tel Aviv.
The government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that Shakir has been an outspoken advocate of the BDS movement prior to his work at HRW, and that they have every right to expel him under a 2017 amendment to the rules of entry and residency.
This is the first deportation under the rule.
Earlier this year, the regulation was cited to deny entry visas to US lawmakers Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib.
While Shakir does not deny being a BDS activist in the past, he says his expulsion is really intended to “muzzle our advocacy on illegal settlements” and human rights of Palestinians in general.
“This is not about BDS, this is an effort to muzzle mainstream human rights advocacy,” he told CNN ahead of the expulsion.
No functioning democracy has ever expelled a told AFP.
“I cannot think of another democracy that has barred a Human Rights Watch researcher,” HRW Executive Director Kenneth Roth said, adding “I think it demonstrates the increasingly constrained nature of Israeli democracy.”
He echoed Shakir’s claim that the expulsion had nothing to do with BDS, but rather with human rights advocacy in general.
HRW does not intend to appoint anyone else to replace Shakir, because “whoever the next person would be would engage in the same kind of advocacy that just led to Omar’s deportation,” Roth said.
Shakir will continue “to fight Israel’s oppressive discrimination toward Palestinians under occupation,” Roth tweeted from on board the flight with his expelled colleague.
Roth added that the Netanyahu government won’t silence Shakir’s work of as he continues to fight “Israel’s oppressive discrimination toward Palestinians under occupation.”
UN Secretary General António Guterres also condemned the decision to expel Shakir.
His spokesperson, Stephane Dujarric expressed “regret” over the Israeli decision and expressing support for the “important work done by human rights defenders around the world” that all countries should support.