Israeli Human Rights Lawyers Defend Activist from Deportation

Omar Shakir, the Israel/Palestine country director for Human Rights Watch, is facing deportation from Israel. At his side, a cadre of Israeli human rights lawyers are seeking to block his deportation and uphold freedom of speech and expression in Israel.

In May 2018, Israel’s Minister of the Interior Arye Deri ordered Shakir’s deportation over his alleged support for boycotts of Israel. Michael Sfard, who provides legal counsel for Yesh Dinand many other NIF grantees, together with Sophie Brodsky and Emily Schaeffer Omer-Man, petitioned the Jerusalem District Court to halt the deportation order. But the petition was recently denied and Shakir was told he must leave within two weeks.

Sfard, Brodsky, and Omer-Man have now submitted a petition to Israel’s Supreme Court to halt the deportation.

The New Israel Fund stands with human rights defenders. Human rights organizations are an essential pillar of any democratic society. They hold governments accountable to international law and to their own societies’ values.

Other democracies know this too. That is why the European Union has nearly unanimously called for Israel’s government to stop the deportation of Shakir, recognizing the importance of a free and unfettered civil society to a healthy democracy, including the ability of human rights organizations to function openly. Israel must uphold democratic values, its culture of free expression, and the right to dissent.

In 2017, the Knesset passed a law banning any foreigner from entering Israel if that individual “knowingly issues a public call for boycotting Israel.” The Jerusalem District Court’s ruling to deport Shakir marks the first time that law has been applied to someone already residing in Israel.

In a statement, Human Rights Watch said neither they nor Shakir promote boycotts of Israel, but acknowledged that both have called for companies to cease operations in West Bank settlements because they “inherently benefit from and contribute to serious violations of international humanitarian law.”

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