"For the Israeli State, the defense of human rights constitutes a threat"

“Grid” (“Grid”, 1983, acrylic painting on canvas), by the Israeli painter and videographer David Reeb.
“Grid” (“Grid”, 1983, acrylic painting on canvas), by the Israeli painter and videographer David Reeb. DAVID REEB

Human Rights Watch (HRW) research director for Israel and Palestine, the American Omar Shakir was expelled from Israel on November 25, 2019, in accordance with a law adopted in 2017, according to which the Hebrew State can prohibit entry or expel anyone who supports the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against the occupation of the Palestinian territories. Mr. Shakir continues to document, from Jordan, human rights abuses in Israel and Palestine.

What does your expulsion say about the human rights situation in Israel?

This decision is not just a personal matter and it’s not just about HRW. The expulsion of the representative of the world's largest human rights organization should sound the alarm. It shows how much Israel has lost all pretension to respect international standards, as well as its desire to block criticism against human rights abuses. This is the first time that a state posing as a democracy has expelled one of the HRW representatives. In doing so, Israel joined the group of countries such as Egypt, North Korea and Venezuela that have expelled or denied entry to HRW personnel.

Omar Shakir, in November 2019.
Omar Shakir, in November 2019. AHMAD GHARABLI / AFP

Is your case a precedent?

It occurs in the context of repeated attacks by the Israeli government against human rights activities: refusal to let in numerous human rights activists, including representatives of Amnesty International and the United Nations Special Rapporteur, restrictions imposed on activists and defenders of Israeli and Palestinian rights and demonization of their work, travel ban and even prosecution. Access restrictions have also been observed in the West Bank targeting Israeli activists.

However, my case is a dangerous precedent. Israel has never previously expelled a person legally present in the country on the pretext that it supports the boycott campaign. Neither HRW nor I called for a boycott of Israel. We document violations of human rights committed by companies in the colonies. They benefit from permits and infrastructure that are denied to the Palestinians. They operate on land stolen from the Palestinians. They pay taxes to the municipalities of the settlements and apply a legal framework discriminating against the Palestinians. We have called on these companies to cease operations in the colonies, which is different from a call for boycott.


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