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PODCAST: Israel wants to deport this human rights defender

On the latest episode of The +972 Podcast, Human Right Watch’s Omar Shakir talks about Israel’s case against him, which he believes is a watershed moment for democracy and free speech in Israel.

Omar Shakir, Israel and Palestine Director at Human Rights Watch (Courtesy of Omar Shakir).

Omar Shakir, Israel and Palestine Director at Human Rights Watch (Courtesy of Omar Shakir).

Listen here: iTunes/Apple Podcasts | Google Play | Spotify


For more than a year now, Israel has been trying to deport the Israel and Palestine Director of Human Rights Watch, Omar Shakir. The ongoing litigation began in May 2018, when Israel decided to revoke Shakir’s work authorization in Israel, largely based on an intelligence dossier that the Ministry of Strategic Affairs compiled of Shakir’s political activity and statements before joining Human Rights Watch. This was the first time that the Israeli government had used the 2017 amendment to its Law of Entry — which denies entry to those who publicly support a boycott of Israel — to deport someone already legally present in the country. 

“The court’s decision largely focused on Human Rights Watch’s research and advocacy on business in settlements, claiming that that work was actually a call for boycott of Israel,” said Shakir. “This is merely the latest incarnation of an attempt by the Israeli government to muzzle Human Rights Watch.”

What’s the difference between the work you do at HRW and boycott advocacy?

“Human Rights Watch takes no position on boycotts of Israel. This isn’t some special Israel policy, it’s part of how we do work everywhere in the world.”

“What we found, through the course of years of working on Israel and Palestine is that inherently, any business that operates in a settlement invariably benefits from and contributes to serious violations of international law and abuses the rights of Palestinians.”

“Today, the political litmus test to enter Israel seems to be support for boycotts. Could it tomorrow be calling for the International Criminal Court to open an investigation, or even calling for withdrawal of settlements, or saying the West Bank is occupied? Today, these restrictions are being used to block somebody from entering the country. Could it tomorrow be the basis to restrict the activities of Israeli and Palestinian rights defenders?”

Would you say that’s an escalation?

“The government has been quite consistent in its efforts to muzzle those that are critical of its policies. For the court, though, to put its stamp on a campaign of this sort is an escalation, and it threatens to further shrink the limited space that remains available for advocacy around Palestinian rights in particular.”

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    1. Bruce Gould

      “..seventeen Democrat members of congress sent a letter to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu imploring him to block the imminent deportation of Human Rights Watch’s director in Israel….to carry out our own human rights work and responsibilities in the U.S. House of Representatives, we rely on the reports of Human Rights Watch for balanced accounts of human rights violations wherever they may occur, including here in the United States..”


      Reply to Comment
    2. itshak Gordine

      From the moment he breaks the law, there is nothing to argue about.

      Reply to Comment
      • Ben

        Halevy, that it the thing being argued about. You can’t say about the thing being argued about that there is nothing to argue about. Well, one can, if one fancies oneself an Imperial Overlord of a system that muzzles its critics, but don’t expect us to take such a statement seriously. But besides that,

        1. He didn’t break the law.
        2. The law that he didn’t break is a government-criticism-muzzling and anti-free speech law.
        3. That’s what is the something, not nothing, that is being argued about.

        Parenthetically, Israel almost never brings to account settlers who break the law; never gives a fair trial to Palestinians; has an apartheid system of two separate sets of laws and application of laws for two populations; is massively violating international law and committing massive human rights violations for 50 years running; violates the laws, never mind basic standards of human decency, on the treatment of refugees, based on race. Nothing to argue about?

        Reply to Comment
        • itshak

          Once again you fall into the blah blah. Knesseth has democratically passed a law punishing the boycott. The authorities apply the law passed by the representatives of the people.

          Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            When you say things like “fall into the blah blah” I have this image of a childish brainwashed cult member with his hands clamped tightly over his ears chanting “I can’t hear you! Nyeah nyeah nyeah nyeah nyeah!”

            Nothing you say in your three sentence non-answer, your three sentence exercise in Missing The Point, prompts any other response except: Go back and take the grade school civics class you never took, and then reread what I wrote.

            Reply to Comment