Israel court orders expulsion of Human Rights Watch director

The court rejected an appeal by Omar Shakir, saying that his activities against Israeli communities in Judea and Samria amount to a boycott of the country.

By Ilan Ben Zion, Associated Press

An Israeli court on Tuesday upheld a deportation order against Human Rights Watch’s local director and gave him two weeks to leave the country.

The Jerusalem District Court rejected an appeal by Omar Shakir to remain in the country, saying that his activities against Israeli communities in Judea and Samria amount to a boycott of the country.

Israel enacted a law in 2017 barring entry to any foreigner who “knowingly issues a public call for boycotting Israel.” Tuesday’s ruling was the first time the law was applied to someone already residing in the country.

Shakir, a U.S. citizen, has worked as the New York-based group’s Israel and Palestine director since October 2016.

Israel’s interior minister ordered Shakir’s deportation in May 2018, calling him a “boycott activist.”

The court said that Shakir “continues his actions publicly to advance a boycott against Israel, but it’s not on the stages at conferences or in university panels, rather through disseminating his calls to advance boycott primarily through his Twitter account and by other means.”

It cited Shakir’s support on Twitter for Airbnb’s decision to remove postings from Israelis living in Judea and and Samaria as an example. Airbnb later backtracked on that decision.

Human Rights Watch said neither the organization nor Shakir promotes Israel boycotts, but has called for companies to cease operations in Israeli communities in Judea and Samaria because they “inherently benefit from and contribute to serious violations of international humanitarian law.”

The court upheld the law applying to boycotts of “areas under (Israel’s) control,” namely the West Bank (Judea and Samaria), not just of Israel proper.

Human Rights Watch claimed that the court’s ruling “threatens the ability of all Human Rights Watch staff members to access both Israel and the West Bank.”

The court gave Shakir until May 1 to leave the country. The group said it would appeal the decision and seek an injunction blocking the deportation while legal proceedings continue.

Israeli Strategic Affairs Minister Gilad Erdan, whose ministry leads anti-boycott efforts, praised the ruling. “Boycott activists need to understand that what was will no longer be,” he said.

Israel captured Judea and Samaria, along with eastern Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip, in the 1967 Six-Day War, when it defended itself against the surrounding Arab countries vowing to annihilate the Jewish state. Jordan had occupied eastern Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria during Israel’s 1948 War of Independence.