Fifteen Israeli human rights organizations have denounced their government’s decision to deport the local director of Human Rights Watch, saying that such actions put Israel “squarely on a list of disreputable states.”
The groups said in a joint statement Wednesday that “neither closing the borders to human rights groups and activists nor other Israeli measures against organizations critical of the occupation will deter us, or them, from reporting human rights violations in areas under Israeli control.”
A day earlier, Israel announced that Omar Shakir, a US citizen, had two weeks to leave the country, alleging he had supported boycotts against Israel. Shakir is the Israel/Palestine director of Human Rights Watch.
The group said neither it nor Shakir supports boycotts and that it would challenge the decision in an Israeli court.
Strategic Affairs Minister Gilad Erdan, who recommended revoking Shakir’s visa, said his office “reveals the true face of boycott activists.”
“Even when they present a false pose of ‘human rights activists’ we will show the hypocrisy and the moral distortion of their actions and make them pay a price for work against Israel,” said Erdan.
Before joining Human Rights Watch in 2016, Shakir was a legal fellow at the Center for Constitutional Rights, an organization that has filed war crimes lawsuits against former defense minister Moshe Ya’alon and former director of the Shin Bet security service Avi Dichter, a current member of Knesset.
Israeli officials have clamped down on groups seen as supporting the global campaign for BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions), which aims to pressure Israel to end its military rule over the West Bank.
Last year the Knesset passed a law barring boycotters of Israel and West Bank settlements from entering the country. However, the legislation still gives the interior minister leeway in making exceptions.