Israeli supreme court upholds government decision to expel BDS activist

If the government decides to follow through and deport Shakir, it will be the first expulsion of its kind under the  2017 law.

By World Israel News Staff

Israel’s Supreme Court rejected on Tuesday a Human Rights Watch employee’s (HRW) appeal to block an expulsion order that was handed down by the government for his ties to the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement, reports NGO Monitor.

“I am delighted that the Supreme Court this morning has validated my decision to not extend the visa of Omar Shakir, one of the leaders of the BDS movement, for his support for boycotting Israel,” said Israeli Interior Minister Aryeh Deri.

“All those who work against Israel must know that we will not let them live or work here,” he added.

In 2016, HRW, an anti-Israel organization, hired Omar Shakir to serve as its “Israel and Palestine Country Director.” The Israeli Ministry of Interior chose not to renew his work visa after it expired in 2018 because, they said, Shakir was using his position to actively promote and support BDS.

A lower court permitted Shakir to stay in the country during the lengthy appeals process.

If the government decides to follow through and deport Shakir, it will be the first expulsion of its kind under a 2017 law that allows the government to ban entry to foreigners who support boycotting the country.

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“If it proceeds, I have 20 days to leave & it’ll [Israel] join ranks of Iran, N Korea & Egypt in blocking access for @hrw official,” Shakir tweeted after the decision was announced.

Shakir’s case has been followed closely internationally as a litmus test for how Israel would enforce the controversial legislation. While one of the three judges said Shakir’s public statements were a clear call for boycott, the majority of the 10,000-word ruling, written by Justice Neal Hendel, focused on the legality of the decision rather than the law itself.

“There is nothing in the decision to reflect upon other human rights organizations and activists,” Hendel wrote. The court gave Shakir 20 days to leave the country and ordered him to pay the legal fees associated with the case.

HRW says neither it nor Shakir has called for an outright boycott of Israel, adding that Shakir, who is a U.S. citizen, is being targeted for the rights group’s opposition to Israeli settlements and its calls for companies to stop working with the settlements.

However, the Israeli government doesn’t see it that way. As Minister of Strategic Affairs Gilad Erdan told the Associated Press in 2017,  all boycotts against Israel are illegitimate.

“A boycott is a boycott. If you want Jews not to live there because you think that is preventing peace and you think it belongs to someone else, then in a democratic country you have the tool,” he said. “Go convince people and go get a majority in the public that shares your positions.”

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Speaking of human rights groups that promote boycotts of Israel, he said, “They try to portray themselves as either human rights protectors or peace activists, and the truth is they are neither.”

Associated Press contributed to this report.