Progressive Israel Network Calls on Israeli Government to Rescind Deportation Order Against Human Rights Watch Director Omar Shakir

November 19, 2019

As American Jewish organizations deeply concerned about the future of Israel’s democracy, we are disturbed and saddened by the decision of the Israeli Supreme Court to uphold the Israeli government’s order to deport Omar Shakir, Human Rights Watch’s Israel and Palestine Director.

Human Rights Watch plays an integral role in documenting and opposing human rights abuses wherever they take place around the world. Allowing human rights organizations like HRW to engage in this work is crucial for any democratic society. The Supreme Court’s decision helps fuel the Israeli right’s widening campaign of incitement and suppression against those who research and oppose the injustices of the occupation. It sets an unacceptable precedent for all groups and activists engaged in this essential work — whether Israeli citizens or non-citizens, Jewish or non-Jewish. As 23 Israeli civil society organizations wrote, the decision to allow for the deportation of Omar Shakir “severely harmed us all.”

Israel’s anti-democratic amendment to the Entry Into Israel Law, provides the pretext for Shakir’s deportation. The law, as amended in 2017, denies entry to Israel (and the occupied territories) to anyone who espouses a boycott against Israel or West Bank settlements. While we oppose the global BDS movement, neither Human Rights Watch, nor Shakir as its representative, has ever called for a boycott of Israel, as the Israeli government acknowledged when it revoked Shakir’s work permit. Rather, the Israeli government and the Supreme Court have made clear that their focus is on Human Rights Watch’s work in the occupied territories, where they are determined to block scrutiny.

We are pro-Israel organizations, united in our belief that banning and deporting people from Israel on the basis of their political opinions or non-violent activism is deeply wrong and undermines Israel’s interests and global standing. Tolerance for criticism and dissent is vital to the functioning of democracy.

We call upon the Israeli government to rescind its decision to deport Shakir. We believe that Israel must allow Human Rights Watch, with Omar Shakir as its representative, to remain in Israel and the occupied territories to continue its work.

The Progressive Israel Network is a coalition of ten leading organizations representing Americans committed to pursuing democracy and equality in Israel and to peace between Israelis and Palestinians. The coalition speaks with a unified voice in support of democracy and equal rights, religious freedom and pluralism, and a two-state solution. Its founding principles can be found here. The network’s founding members are Ameinu, Americans for Peace Now, Habonim Dror North America, Hashomer Hatzair, The Jewish Labor Committee, J Street, The New Israel Fund, Partners for Progressive Israel, Reconstructing Judaism, and T’ruah.