Published: Thu, November 07, 2019
Global News | By Blake Casey

Israel supreme court upholds expulsion of Human Rights Watch official

Israel supreme court upholds expulsion of Human Rights Watch official

Israel's Supreme Court on Tuesday rejected an appeal by the local director of Human Rights Watch, which sought to block the Israeli government's attempt to expel him for allegedly supporting an global boycott movement against Israel.

On Twitter, Shakir said that if he is forced from the country, Israel will join Iran, North Korea and Egypt on a list of countries that have blocked access to Human Rights Watch officials.

Maurice Hirsch, a lawyer for the pro-Israel NGO monitor group that joined the case against Shakir, said it had presented evidence going back to 2010 of Shakir publicly supporting BDS.

HRW has called the government's attempts to deport Shakir a clear attempt by the country to suppress criticism.

In a post from May 2017, Shakir wrote that he wanted to "press Federation Internationale de Football Association on [soccer] matches in illegal Israeli settlements".

It has defended Shakir's statements since joining, including a tweet backing online rental service Airbnb's delisting a year ago of homes in Israeli settlements in the West Bank.

The Democratic party lawmakers had previously said they supported the use of boycotts to pressure governments, including that of Israel, on human rights abuses.

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"We have a law that makes it impossible for human rights advocates and authors and even politicians to come here and have direct contact with Israelis and Palestinians who share their positions, " Sfard said. Most of the worldwide community considers Israeli settlements in the West Bank illegal. They are not and should not be interpreted as a call for a boycott. He applauded the ruling, which was decided unanimously by three Supreme Court justices.

In its most high-profile use, Israel blocked in August two USA congresswomen, Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib, from a planned trip to Palestine and Jerusalem.

The justices were not swayed by arguments that HRW criticizes most countries and that its criticism was based on global law. Human rights groups face continuing attacks - through restrictive legislation and governmental policies - coupled with smear campaigns aimed at delegitimising their work. "HRW is welcome to appoint another representative in Israel in place of Shakir if it chooses to do so".

In his own statement about the decision Tuesday, Shakir expressed his determination to carry on with his "rights advocacy" regardless of however the Israeli government decides to proceed with the ruling. But this begs the question: does the court really think the next HRW official will not criticize Israel and sometimes call for boycotts? It has also pressured Western countries to curb the movement's influence. (At this stage, the court sidestepped the issue, noting that the government has not listed HRW on its own black-list).

It will now be up to the government whether to follow through and deport Shakir, a U.S. citizen, who brands the move a bid by Israel to silence and delegitimise critics of its treatment of the Palestinians.

In April, the Jerusalem District Court approved a government decision to cancel the residency visa of Shakir, a USA citizen, claiming that he has showed support for the BDS movement. Since then, the struggle between the worldwide group and government officials has wended its way up through the Israeli court system.

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