Human Rights Watch director leaves Israel as deportation order takes effect


The Israel and Palestine Director of Human Rights Watch, Omar Shakir, left Israel after the Supreme Court upheld the government’s deportation order on November 5 and gave him until November 25 to leave.

The deportation reflects the authorities’ intensifying assault on human rights. Human Rights Watch will keep documenting abuses despite the Israeli government’s expulsion, commented the rights group on Shakir’s  ordeal.

The group announced further that Human Rights Watch’s work on human rights abuses committed by Israel, the Palestinian Authority, and Hamas will continue under Shakir’s direction. He will be based in another Human Rights Watch office in the region.

“Israel today joins the likes of Venezuela, Iran, and Egypt in barring Human Rights Watch researchers, but it, too, will not succeed in hiding its human rights abuses,” said Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch, who will accompany Shakir as he leaves Israel.

In May 2018, Israel revoked the work visa of Shakir, a United States citizen, on the asserted grounds that his advocacy violated a 2017 law that bars entry to people who advocate a boycott of Israel or its settlements in the occupied West Bank.

Neither Human Rights Watch nor Shakir as its representative has ever called for a boycott of Israel. Human Rights Watch has urged businesses to stop operating in illegal settlements as part of their global duty to avoid complicity in human rights abuses – just as it calls on businesses to comply with this duty in many other countries.

A district court in April, and then the Israeli Supreme Court, found that this position constitutes grounds for deportation under an expansive reading of the 2017 law.

The Supreme Court did not address Human Rights Watch’s challenge to the constitutionality of that law, including the implications that it will chill the speech of those who disagree with government policies.

This is the first time the government has used the 2017 law to try to deport someone who is lawfully inside Israel and the first time it has ordered a Human Rights Watch staff member to leave in the organization’s 30 years of working in the country. (Source:HRW)