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HRW asks Israeli court to block activist deportation

Omar Shakir, Israel and Palestine director at Human Rights Watch (HRW)

Human Rights Watch (HRW) has filed a lawsuit with an Israeli court to prevent the planned deportation of an activist over his alleged support for a pro-Palestine boycott campaign against the Tel Aviv regime.

The New York-based rights group asked the court to delay the deportation of Omar Shakir, Israel and Palestine Director at the HRW, until the end of legal proceedings.

On May 9, Israel ordered Shakir to leave the occupied territories within two weeks, accusing him of promoting the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.

The Israeli ministry of strategic affairs also collected a seven-page intelligence dossier on the 33-year-old Stanford-educated American lawyer, calling for the revocation of his work permit.

Israeli Interior Minister Aryeh Deri further alleged that Shakir was a “boycott activist” and vowed to “act to expel people like this” with all means at his disposal.

However, both Shakir and the HRW denied the Israeli accusations of supporting the BDS movement, saying the regime was actually trying to block human rights activists from doing their jobs in the occupied lands.

“It’s quite clear that the real objective of this deportation order is to muzzle Human Rights Watch and shut down criticism” of the Israeli regime, Shakir told France 24 TV network. “This is a decision taken with the aim of silencing criticism of Israel’s human rights record.”

The fresh lawsuit accused Israel of improperly enforcing an anti-boycott law, which was passed in March 2017, saying it does not apply to people already in the occupied territories with valid visas.

“This outcome is blood-curdling as it means the creation of databases on the political views, opinions and statements of civilians,” the lawsuit read.

Israel has stepped up clampdown on groups deemed to be supporting the BDS, a Palestinian-led international campaign launched more than a decade ago with the aim of ending Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territories. The movement also pursues equal rights for Palestinians by exerting pressure on the Israeli regime via economic and cultural boycotts.

The deportation case comes at a time that Israel faces mounting criticism over its killing of dozens of Palestinians near the Gaza fence on the eve of the 70th anniversary of the Nakba Day (the Day of Catastrophe), which coincided with the inauguration of the US embassy in Jerusalem al-Quds.

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