Israel's Supreme Court Greenlights Deportation of Human Rights Watch Official for Supporting BDS

The Israeli government has won its bid to deport a human rights activist accused of supporting the boycott, divestment and sanctions—or BDS—campaign.

The Israeli government revoked Omar Shakir's work permit in May and ordered him to leave the country within 14 days. Shakir—who is a U.S. citizen and the Israel and Palestine director at Human Rights Watch—appealed the decision, but the Supreme Court has now upheld the government order, Haaretz reported.

Shakir, Human Rights Watch and a range of other human rights and pro-Palestinian organizations have condemned the expulsion order as nakedly political.

Human Rights Watch said the government order was based on a dossier of Shakir's activity over the course of a decade, much of which concerned work before he was employed by the organization.

BDS seeks to establish various forms of boycotts against Israel until it meets what the campaign says are the country's obligations under international law.

These include withdrawal from the West Bank, removal of separation barrier splitting the West Bank, equality for Israel's Arab-Palestinian citizens, and allowing Palestinian refugees to return to their ancestral lands and homes.

Critics have argued that the BDS organization is anti-Semitic. In 2017, Israel passed a law allowing authorities to refuse entry to supporters of BDS. U.S. lawmakers Rep. Rashida Tlaib and Rep. Ilhan Omar are among those who have been barred from the country under the legislation.

Supreme Court Justice Neal Hendel wrote that the government decision was based on Shakir's "systematic, prolonged, qualitative and wide-ranging activity to promote the boycott strategy."

The Israeli government has not classified Human Rights Watch as a boycott organization, meaning it can propose another representative to take Shakir's place. But Hendel suggested any replacement should not be someone "who is not involved up to their neck in BDS activity."

Israel's Interior Minister Aryeh Deri—who ordered Shakir's expulsion—welcomed the verdict, and said "anyone who works against the state should know that we will not allow him to live or work here."

The case will now revert to the Israeli government. If the decision is upheld, Shakir will have 20 days to leave Israel.

On Twitter, Shakir said that if he is forced from the country, Israel will join Iran, North Korea and Egypt on a list of countries that have blocked access to Human Rights Watch officials. "We won't stop," he vowed. "And we won't be the last."

In July, the organization's Executive Director Kenneth Roth told Haaretz that Venezuela, Cuba and Sudan have also all deported Human Rights Watch employees. "It's not a club that Israel should be enthusiastic about joining," he said.

Omar Shakir, HRW, Israel, BDS, deportation
Human Rights Watch's Israel and Palestine director Omar Shakir sits at his office in the West Bank city of Ramallah on May 9, 2018. ABBAS MOMANI/AFP via Getty Images/Getty
Israel's Supreme Court Greenlights Deportation of Human Rights Watch Official for Supporting BDS | News