The final word came on Tuesday: Omar Shakir, a US citizen and director of Human Rights Watch (HRW) in Israel and the Palestinian Occupied Territories, lost his legal battle before the Israeli Supreme Court, after fighting with great determination for over a year against the decision by the Israeli Interior Ministry to deport him for his alleged support for a movement to boycott of the Jewish state.
The final step will be up to the same government which revoked Shakir’s residence permit in 2018. If the government headed by Benjamin Netanyahu gives final approval to this decision of the Supreme Court—and no one doubts that it will—this human rights defender will have 20 days to pack his bags and leave the country.
As HRW pointed out on Tuesday, this will add Israel to the list of a few states—including Iran, North Korea and Egypt—which have deported its representatives. The ruling by the highest Israeli court clashes openly with international law and enshrines the principle that absolute priority should be given to the political reasons advanced by the government.
Shakir’s legal ordeal began shortly after the announcement on May 9, 2018, by the Israeli Interior Ministry that it would not renew his residence permit, on the basis of claims that the HRW official “has actively and consistently supported strategies calling for boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel (BDS),” in addition to the fact that he “frequently retweets and shares content on BDS against Israel.”
The accusation came after Human Rights Watch called on local and international businesses to stop operating in the Jewish settlements in the West Bank, to avoid being complicit in violations of the resolutions adopted by various international bodies that condemn the illegality of the settlements built by Israel in the Palestinian Territories, which it has occupied by force of arms since 1967.
Human Rights Watch, a New York-based NGO, has put out public calls to do the same in many other countries that are occupying territories, but the Israeli Supreme Court stated in its ruling that calling for the application of this principle (i.e. guaranteeing respect for the rights of the Palestinians) is nothing more than a call to boycott Israel, based on the 2017 law prohibiting entry to people who support a boycott of Israel or its settlements in the West Bank.
The judges also argued that Shakir had already been calling for a boycott of Israeli settlements before joining Human Rights Watch. The NGO defended its employee and insisted that they never called for a boycott of Israel, but simply urged businesses and firms to fulfill their responsibilities with regard to human rights by ending their ties with the illegal settlements in the West Bank. The Israeli Court saw this as an appeal to the boycott of Israel hidden under the guise of calling for respect for international law and humanitarian law.
The international protests which have been organized in recent months after rulings by lower courts confirming Shakir’s deportation have not changed anything. Many took the opportunity to reiterate their condemnation of the colonization of the West Bank, including 17 members of the US Congress, the Secretary General of the United Nations, three UN Special Rapporteurs on human rights, as well as numerous independent groups and academic associations.
Just a few days ago, after the news that a further 252 hectares of Palestinian land in the West Bank are going to be confiscated in order to expand settlements, the European Union also reiterated its opposition to the policy of colonization being implemented by Israel. Amnesty International has expressed its concern about the consequences that the ruling of the Israeli Supreme Court and the deportation of Omar Shakir will have on other human rights groups and their ability to continue operating in Israel and the Palestinian Occupied Territories.