Human Rights Watch sues Israel to prevent deportation of its local director

May 16, 2018

Human Rights Watch’s Israel and Palestine Director Omar Shakir in his office in the West Bank city of Ramallah, May 9, 2018. Israel has given him two weeks to leave the country. (Abbas Momani/AFP/Getty Images)

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Human Rights Watch sued Israel’s Interior Ministry to prevent its local director from being deported over his past involvement in the BDS movement.

The NGO filed the lawsuit in Jerusalem District Court on Tuesday in order to keep its director of Israel/Palestine, Omar Shakir, from being deported after his work permit was revoked.

According to the organization, the lawsuit is the first legal challenge to a 2017 law that bans from Israel those who publicly call for boycotts of the country.

The lawsuit argues that the government went beyond the law in deporting someone with valid status who it acknowledged has not engaged in boycott activities while residing in Israel, and that the motivation behind this move is to curb Human Rights Watch’s activities.

The Interior Ministry compiled a seven-page dossier to support its deportation order against Shakir. 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.

The lawsuit asks the court to pause the deportation order, due to take effect Tuesday, May 22, pending the outcome of legal proceedings.

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