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Israel Orders Deportation of International Rights Official

Israel Orders Deportation of International Rights Official Israel Orders Deportation of International Rights Official

Israel has revoked the work permit for Omar Shakir, the Human Rights Watch Israel and Palestine director, and ordered him to leave Israel within 14 days. The government said it was because of Shakir's support for boycotts of Israel.

Authorities based the decision on a dossier a government ministry compiled on Shakir's activities spanning over a decade, almost all of them predating his Human Rights Watch employment. The decision comes a year after the interior ministry granted Human Rights Watch a permit to employ Shakir as a foreign expert, after initially refusing to issue it, HRW reported on its website.

"This is not about Shakir, but rather about muzzling Human Rights Watch and shutting down criticism of Israel's rights record," said Iain Levine, deputy executive director for program at Human Rights Watch.

Human Rights Watch stands fully behind Shakir and has retained counsel to challenge the decision through legal means. The organization says the decision should be reversed.

The order notes that the decision "does not constitute a principled or sweeping refusal for the organization to employ a foreign expert," but rather relates specifically to Shakir.

However, a February 2017 interior ministry decision to deny a work permit did target the organization, contending that its "public activities and reports have engaged in politics in the service of Palestinian propaganda, while falsely raising the banner of 'human rights.'"

The ministry later reversed course, granting Human Rights Watch a permit in March 2017 and issuing Shakir a one-year work visa on April 26, 2017.

In 2011, Israeli authorities passed a law allowing people to file lawsuits and seek damages against anyone who publicly calls for boycotts of Israel, defined to include boycotts of settlements.

In March 2017, an amendment to the Law of Entry, cited in the May 7 letter, empowered authorities to refuse entry into the country to activists who publicly call for or have committed to participate in a boycott against Israel.

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