Israel’s Top Court Upholds Expulsion of Human Rights Watch Director Over BDS Support

The Supreme Court upheld the expulsion of Human Rights Watch representative in Israel and Palestine, Omar Shakir, accused by the state of supporting the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement, on Tuesday. 

Justices Neal Hendel, Noam Sohlberg, and Yael Willner rejected Shakir's and Human Rights Watch's appeal against the expulsion, ruling that the interior minister did not err in deciding not to renew the activist's residency. He has 20 days to leave the country. 

Shakir has said the decision to expel him was politically motivated and part of an attempt to silence human rights organizations working in Israel. He asked the government to halt his expulsion on the basis of the law allowing the Foreign Ministry to block moves against pro-boycott activists if there are grounds to believe such actions would damage Israel's foreign relations. 

Hendel wrote in the ruling that Interior Minister Arye Dery's decision "concerns only the employment of Shakir himself – and it is based on his systematic, prolonged, qualitative and wide-ranging activity to promote the boycott strategy." However, Hendel added, "Human Rights Watch is not classified as a boycott organization – and it can request the employment of another representative who is not involved up to his neck in BDS activity." 

Michael Sfard, one of Shakir's attorneys, said of the decision: "Today, the State of Israel joined the list of countries like Syria, Iran and North Korea, which have expelled Human Rights Watch representatives in an attempt to silence criticism of human rights violations taking place within their borders."

Dery, for his part, said he welcomed the court's decision, saying that "anyone who works against the state should know that we will not allow him to live or work here."

Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan also welcomed the decision, and said: "The State of Israel places great importance on the activity of real human rights organizations, and even provides hundreds of residency permits to human rights activists every year," adding that the organization is free to choose another person for the job.