the director of Human Rights Watch expelled

Omar Shakir, Human Rights Watch Director for Israel and the Palestinian Territories, with Kenneth Roth, International Director of the NGO, on November 25 at David Ben-Gurion Airport, near Tel Aviv. AMMAR AWAD / REUTERS

Human Rights Watch (HRW) Israel's director, Omar Shakir, was forced to leave the country on Monday (November 25th) after exhausting his lawsuits. This is the first time that the representative of a major international human rights organization has been expelled from the country, and this precedent questions Israel's respect for its own democratic foundations.

"This demonstrates the increasingly restricted character of Israeli democracy," said Kenneth Roth, the HRW director, speaking from Jerusalem. Roth pointed out that such expulsion placed the country in a narrow circle of repressive states that had recently banned their territory from its investigators: Iran, Egypt and Venezuela.

The Interior Ministry had refused, at the end of 2018, to renew the work visa of Mr. Shakir, an Iraqi and American citizen, after nearly two years of practice. He accused him of supporting the BDS (boycott, divestment, sanctions) campaign against Israel – something Shakir denies.

Read also Human Rights Watch official in Israel expelled from the country

A first court of law endorsed this decision in April, then the Supreme Court in early November. They were based on an amendment to the 2017 Law on Entry into Israel, which aims to combat the supporters of such a boycott of the country. This vague legal definition tends to include the denunciation of Israeli settlements, which are illegal under international law, and the occupation of the Palestinian territories. This word "occupation" is banned from public speeches in Israel.

In support of his case, the Ministry of the Interior had exhumed Mr. Shakir's old tweet, published while a student in the United States, calling him "Propalestinian propagandist", an interpretation he rejects. At the beginning of November, the Court noted, in support of its decision, calls by HRW to companies to withdraw from the settlements, including the giant online rental Airbnb. "Neither HRW nor I, as his representative, have ever called for a boycott of Israel"defended Mr. Shakir on Monday. However, he pointed out that this proven method of "Fight against injustice" was freedom of expression.

A target of the Israeli right

For two years, the Ministry of Strategic Affairs has been campaigning aggressively against the BDS campaign, in coordination with a galaxy of allied NGOs. They strive to highlight the links of the movement's leaders with Palestinian organizations 'Terrorists' and their supposed anti-Semitism. It is on the basis of this law of 2017 that two American democratic parliamentarians, Rashida Tlaib, of Palestinian origin, and Ilhan Omar, were banned in August to go to Israel, at the request of the American president, Donald Trump.

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