JERUSALEM (AFP) — Israel's supreme court on Tuesday upheld the government’s expulsion of a senior Human Rights Watch official over his alleged support of a boycott of the country.
Israel has sought to expel Omar Shakir, director for Israel and the Palestinian territories for the New York-based rights group, for more than a year.
Now it will be up to the government whether to follow through and deport Shakir, a U.S. citizen, who calls the move a bid by Israel to silence and delegitimize critics of its treatment of the Palestinians.
"If it proceeds, I have 20 days to leave & it’ll join ranks of Iran, N Korea & Egypt in blocking access for @hrw official," Shakir tweeted after the decision was announced.
It would be the first expulsion of its kind under a 2017 law allowing deportation of foreigners who support boycotting Israel, though there have been cases of people being denied entry under the measure.
"I am delighted that the supreme court this morning has validated my decision to not extend the visa of Omar Shakir, one of the leaders of the BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) movement, for his support for boycotting Israel," Israeli Interior Minister Aryeh Deri said. "All those who work against Israel must know that we will not let them live or work here."
The case against Shakir was based on alleged statements in support of a boycott he made before taking up his post. Then the government added new statements that allegedly support a boycott.
Human Rights Watch says it has criticized Israel's human rights record but has never advocated a boycott, and that and the same is true for Shakir since he joined the organization.
Israel's ministry of strategic affairs, which probes potential violations of the 2017 law, alleges Shakir's activism, particularly on the country's occupation of the West Bank, has amounted to calls for a boycott.
The BDS movement calls for a boycott of Israel over its treatment of the Palestinians.
Israel sees the movement as a strategic threat and accuses it of anti-Semitism — a claim activists strongly deny.
© Agence France-Presse