Human Rights Watch (HRW) has lambasted Tel Aviv’s decision to expel the rights group’s Israel director from the occupied territories over his purported support for the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement.
In a statement on Sunday, HRW Executive Director Ken Roth said that American citizen Omar Shakir, the US-based rights group’s director for Israel and the Palestinian territories, is to be deported from Israel on Monday over his alleged support the BDS movement.
The movement, which is a Palestinian-led campaign promoting a total and worldwide boycott against Israel, was initiated in 2005 by over 170 Palestinian organizations and later turned international.
BDS, which was inspired by the South African anti-apartheid movement, says it continues its efforts until it forces Israel to abide by “its obligations under international law” and end its occupation of Palestinian lands.
The expulsion order, which was upheld by the Supreme Court of Israel earlier this month, would make Shakir the first individual to be expelled from Israel under a controversial 2017 law allowing the deportation of foreigners who support the BDS.
HRW rejected the idea that Shakir had supported the boycott movement against Israel, saying the occupying regime is in fact seeking to suppress criticism of policies towards Palestinians.
Elsewhere in his statement, Roth said Tel Aviv tried “as much as it can” to silence efforts “spotlighting the human rights violations at the heart of the oppressive, discriminatory occupation (of Palestinian land).”
Shakir, who denies supporting the BDS at least since taking up his post with HRW, fought a lengthy legal campaign against expulsion, but to no avail.
In a post on his Twitter account on Sunday, he noted that his expulsion was over his “human rights advocacy with HRW.”
“Israel is slated to deport me tomorrow over my work as HRW’s director in Israel,” Shakir said, adding, “It’s drawing a red line: free expression in Israel today doesn’t include basic rights advocacy (calling on businesses to refrain from complicity in abuses). We aren’t the first & won’t be the last.”
Last year, Israel published a list of 20 organizations whose activists would be barred from entering the occupied territories due to their support for boycott campaigns.
Israel’s strategic affairs ministry has been allocated $36 million to combat the BDS movement.
Thousands of volunteers worldwide have joined the BDS movement, which calls for people and groups across the world to cut economic, cultural and academic ties to Tel Aviv, to help promote the Palestinian cause.