Human rights activist vows to fight Israeli deportation


A human rights activist deported by Israel earlier this week has vowed to continue efforts to reverse his expulsion, adding that he will not give up reporting on human rights abuses.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) has asked Israel’s Supreme Court to reconsider the case of Omar Shakir, the watchdog’s Jerusalem-based director who was expelled on Nov. 25, he told Anadolu Agency in a phone interview.

“It’s official: Israel has expelled me over my human rights watch advocacy, joining Syria, Egypt, and Bahrain in barring me access,” Shakir tweeted on Monday.

Israeli authorities accuse Shakir of supporting the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, which Israel has criminalized.

For his part, Shakir has called the decision politically driven and aimed to silence human rights groups working in Israel.

In April, the Jerusalem District Court approved a government decision to cancel the residency visa of Shakir, a U.S. citizen, claiming that he has shown support for the BDS movement.

The move was the first of its kind since the New York-based rights group began monitoring events in Israel and Palestine three decades ago.

“The justification for the Israeli government varied, it began three years ago by denying HRW permission to hire a foreign employee,” Shakir explained.

“At the time, the allegation was that we were propagandist for the Palestinians and not a real human rights group.”.

He added: “That changed and the most recent explanation offered was that I have called for boycotts of Israel, but that’s just a pretext.”

“Neither HRW nor I, as a representative, ever called for a boycott of Israel,” he said.

“Our response to it has been to continue doubling down on doing the work and not to give in to Israeli censorship efforts,” he stressed.

Systematic repression of Palestinians

He also said the watchdog documents rights abuses around the world and calls on companies to ensure that they are not contributing to any abuse.

“We’ve done that with fisheries in Thailand, with tech companies in China, and with cotton-picking in Uzbekistan.

“And in the context of Israel and Palestine, we’ve determined that businesses operating in the settlements contributed to human rights abuses, so we called on them to stop operating in those settlements, but did not call for boycotts,” he said.

On Nov. 5, Israel’s Supreme Court rejected Shakir’s appeal of his deportation and gave him 20 days to leave the country.

Shakir said he is set to brief six European governments and the European Parliament on “Israel’s systematic repression of Palestinians.”

”In addition to our direct efforts to reverse the government’s decision, we’re going to continue raising this issue around the world, not only the Israeli government’s assaults on human rights organizations, but also its systematic repression of Palestinians,” said Shakir.

Shakir also said Israel’s “restrictive moves” on human rights defenders are forcing them to spend their attention and resources on such matters rather than on documenting the situation on the ground.

“For more than a decade, the Israeli government has barred our international staff from entering the Gaza Strip, which makes it very difficult, obviously, to document human rights abuses there,” he added.
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