LONDON - Responding to the news that the Israeli Supreme Court has upheld a deportation order for Omar Shakir, Israel / Palestine Country Director for Human Rights Watch (HRW), Amnesty International’s Deputy Middle East and North Africa Director Saleh Higazi said:

“The Israeli Supreme Court’s decision to uphold the deportation of Omar Shakir further illustrates the instrumental role of this institution in upholding the country’s anti-human rights agenda. With this ruling, the court has made it explicitly clear that those who dare to speak out about human rights violations by the Israeli authorities will be treated as enemies of the state.

“Human rights defenders play an essential role in exposing the government’s wrongdoing and fostering public debate. Today’s decision is a cowardly move that confirms Israel’s oppressive intent on silencing independent human rights organizations at any cost.

“Whether a human rights organization is advocating for a boycott or simply demanding that companies uphold international law, both are forms of peaceful expression which courts need to protect. Instead, the Israeli Supreme Court has done the exact opposite and joined the attack on HRW and the human rights community.

“The world must not stay silent in the face of this travesty of justice. The international community, including Israel’s allies such as the USA, have a responsibility to press Israel to reverse this reprehensible decision and make clear to them that this kind of blatant repression is completely unacceptable and will have consequences.”

Background

On 7 May 2018, the Israeli Ministry of Interior revoked the work permit of Omar Shakir, a US citizen, arguing that he had violated Israel’s 2011 “anti-boycott” law. A 2017 amendment to the Entry to Israel Law refuses entry to Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT) to anyone who supports or calls for a boycott of Israel. On 16 April 2019, the Jerusalem District Court upheld the deportation order.

Omar Shakir and HRW appealed the decision to Israel’s Supreme Court. Amnesty International joined the legal challenge submitting an amicus curia briefing to the Israeli Supreme Court. His appeal was rejected and his deportation order was upheld by the Supreme Court today. The decision to implement the order now lies with the Israeli government. If it proceeds, Omar Shakir would have 20 days to leave the country.

Amnesty International considers that calls such as those made by HRW and Omar Shakir asking companies to respect international law are protected by the right to freedom of expression. They are not and should not be interpreted as a call for a boycott. Nevertheless, if the Israeli authorities do take the view that such activities amount to calls for a boycott, Amnesty International believes that advocates of such calls must be allowed to express their views freely.

In recent years, Israeli authorities have dramatically intensified their harassment and intimidation of human rights defenders and civil society in Israel and the OPT. Human rights groups face continuing attacks, through restrictive legislation and governmental policies coupled with smear campaigns aimed at delegitimizing human rights work. Recently, Laith Abu Zeyad, Amnesty International’s Campaigner on Israel and Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT), was banned from travelling abroad for “security reasons”, apparently as a punitive measure against the organization’s human rights work.