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‘Chilling message to all critics’: HRW slams Israel’s decision to deport its regional director

‘Chilling message to all critics’: HRW slams Israel’s decision to deport its regional director
An Israeli court has upheld the deportation order against the local director of Human Rights Watch, accusing him of supporting the BDS movement by condoning Airbnb’s decision to briefly take down Jewish listings in the West Bank.

Omar Shakir, a US citizen who has been working as the HRW regional director since October 2016, was ordered to leave Israel by the interior minister last year, after being accused of engaging in Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement activities.

HRW’s Israel and Palestine Director then appealed the validity of his deportation order, issued in the wake of the 2017 law that barred foreigners who publicly call a boycott of Israel from entering the country. Despite a massive outcry from Palestinians, Jerusalem district court upheld that the law applies to boycotts of all “areas under [Israel’s] control,” including the West Bank, and ordered Shakir to depart Israel by May 1.

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​The 41-year-old director found Tuesday’s ruling over his “peaceful” activist activities “shocking” and “chilling,” condemning the Israeli legal system for having a law that prosecutes Palestinian rights activists.

Human Rights Watch said it will appeal the ruling, which was applied for the first time to someone already residing in the country. “The decision sends the chilling message that those who criticize the involvement of businesses in serious abuses in Israeli settlements risk being barred from Israel and the Israeli-occupied West Bank,” said Tom Porteous, deputy program director at Human Rights Watch.

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