Jerusalem (AFP) – Israel has given a Human Rights Watch director two weeks to leave the country, accusing him of promoting a boycott, in a move the rights group said sought to muzzle criticism.
The interior ministry said Tuesday it had terminated the residency permit of HRW’s Israel and Palestine director Omar Shakir, a US citizen, over accusations that he supported a boycott of Israel.
“Following the recommendations of the Ministry of Strategic Affairs, containing information that Shakir has been a BDS activist for years supporting the boycott of Israel in an active way, the ministry has decided to terminate (his) residence permit,” the interior ministry said in a statement.
Israeli officials have clamped down on groups seen as supporting the global campaign for BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions), which aims to pressure Israel to end its occupation of the Palestinian territories.
HRW has written several critical reports about the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories.
Israel’s government, seen as the most right-wing in the country’s history, has been accused of putting pressure on both international and local rights organisations.
Shakir, who received permission to work in Israel in April 2017, months after being barred from the country, now has 14 days to leave, the New York-based rights group said.
“This is not about Shakir, but rather about muzzling Human Rights Watch and shutting down criticism of Israel’s rights record,” HRW said in a statement.
“Neither Human Rights Watch nor its representative, Shakir, promotes boycotts of Israel.”