Israel’s supreme court on Tuesday upheld the deportation order against Human Rights Watch (HRW) director for Israel and Palestine, Omar Shakir. This comes after a prolonged legal battle between Israel and the international human rights organization. Israel’s interior ministry had issued the deportation order against Shakir for his alleged involvement in BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) activities.
The Supreme court bench, comprising of justices Neal Hendel, Noam Sohlberg, and Yael Willner, said in its ruling that the interior ministry was not erroneous in deciding not to renew Shakir’s work permit. Shakir, who is a US citizen, has 20 days to leave the country.
Justice Hendel remarked that the interior minister Arye Dery’s decision “concerns only the employment of Shakir himself – and it is based on his systematic, prolonged, qualitative and wide-ranging activity to promote the boycott strategy.”
The Israeli interior ministry cancelled Shakir’s work visa in May 2018 and issued a deportation order against him on May 7, based on a dossier compiled by the strategic affairs and public diplomacy ministry on his alleged BDS-related activities. Shakir was then given 14 days to leave the country. Subsequently, he and the HRW filed an appeal challenging the order in the district court in Jerusalem, which allowed him to stay in Israel for the duration of the court proceedings.
The district court, however, ended up ruling against Shakir on April 16, 2019, and asked him to leave the country by May 1. Shakir and the HRW filed another appeal in the supreme court against the district court’s order.
The decision to revoke Shakir’s work visa and residency was taken under a 2017 amendment to the 2011 ‘anti-boycott’ Prevention of Entry into Israel law, which authorizes the interior minister to withhold temporary visas or residency to any non-Israeli who publicly calls for, or pledges to participate in a boycott of Israel.
The supreme court was initially scheduled to hear Shakir’s case in July, but the hearings were postponed by the court to provide time for the state to prepare. Amnesty International and a group of former Israeli ambassadors also joined the case as amicus curiae (friends of the court) on the side of Shakir and HRW, after several right wing non-governmental organizations joined the court as amicus curiae on the state’s side.
The court first postponed the hearing from July to November, but after pressure from the Israeli state and right-wing organizations, the hearing was moved to an earlier date of September 24. Shakir had, in July, denied supporting BDS, saying that “I do not support BDS and I do not oppose BDS. We (HRW) don’t take positions on boycotts of Israel and we do not take positions on boycotts of any other country.”