Israel gives local Human Rights Watch director 2 weeks to leave


JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israel has revoked the work permit of the local director of Human Rights Watch, and ordered him to leave the country within two weeks.

Omar Shakir, the Human Rights Watch Israel and Palestine director, is being thrown out of the county for his alleged support of boycotts of Israel, according to Human Rights Watch, which published on its website the seven-page dossier compiled for the Interior Ministry. Much of the dossier covers a time period before Shakir assumed his position at Human Rights Watch, including a great deal of his time at Stanford University.

When Shakir, a native of California, was first appointed to his position in February 2017, he was denied both a work visa and a tourist visa.

A month later, he was allowed entry to Israel, the same day the Knesset passed a law banning entry to foreigners who publicly call for boycotting the Jewish state or its settlements. The following month he was granted a work visa.

“This is not about Shakir, but rather about muzzling Human Rights Watch and shutting down criticism of Israel’s rights record,” said Iain Levine, deputy executive director for program at Human Rights Watch. “Compiling dossiers on and deporting human rights defenders is a page out of the Russian or Egyptian security services’ playbook.”

Human Rights Watch has called on Israeli officials to reverse the decision, and is prepared to go to court to keep Shakir in the country, the group said in a statement.

The group said it applied in January 2018 to extend Shakir’s work visa, which was due to expire on March 31. On March 29, the Interior Ministry extended the visa for a month pending a decision on revocation.

In a written response to the Interior Ministry, Human Rights Watch said it did not promote boycotts of Israel and that Shakir also had not since being hired by the group.

Human rights organizations and activists condemned Israel in statements and posts on social media, many of them retweeted by Shakir.

Shakir said in a tweet that Israel’s “real aim” in deporting him is “to muzzle dissent.”

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