Op-Ed: Israeli Court upholds deportation of clinic alumnus & Human Rights Watch director

May 6, 2019, 1:38 a.m.

On April 16 the District Court of Jerusalem upheld the deportation of Human Rights Watch Director for Israel and Palestine and Mills Legal Clinic alumnus Omar Shakir (SLS ‘13). Human Rights Watch had challenged a 2017 amendment to Israel’s Law of Entry that permitted the Israeli government’s decision to revoke Mr. Shakir’s work visa in May 2018. The law allows Israel to ban foreigners based on support for the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement.

Mr. Shakir, a California native and U.S. citizen, is the first person to have a visa revoked under the law. He joined the international non-governmental organization Human Rights Watch in late 2016 and for much of his tenure he has wrestled with Israeli authorities over his ability to work in the country. After a lengthy review, Israel denied Human Rights Watch the ability to hire a foreign employee in February 2017, eventually granting Mr. Shakir a work permit in April 2017.

As part of the litigation, the Israeli Ministry of Strategic Affairs and Public Diplomacy compiled a dossier of Mr. Shakir’s alleged promotion of BDS dating back to his time at Stanford. In upholding the law and his visa revocation, Judge Tamar Bazak-Rappaport also cited Mr. Shakir’s work defending the official position of Human Rights Watch to encourage international businesses to restrict their activities in the disputed settlements. For example, Human Rights Watch has advocated to dissuade multinational companies like Airbnb from operating in Israeli-controlled West Bank settlements given the effect on Palestinians, but the court ruled Israeli law does not distinguish between boycotts of Israel and boycotts of West Bank settlements. Mr. Shakir has written about his experience and his concerns over the precedent his deportation sets for the Israeli court system and the chilling effect it will have on organizations seeking to avoid supporting Israel’s continued occupation of the West Bank.

Human rights advocates, the United Nations, the European Union and others have called on Israel to permit him to stay. Human Rights Watch filed an appeal April 30 before Israel’s Supreme Court. Mr. Shakir should learn in the coming days if the court will grant a reprieve to his ordered deportation pending the resolution of his case. 

— Amanda McCaffrey, SLS ’20.

Amanda McCaffrey is a student in the International Human Rights and Conflict Resolution Law Clinic at Stanford Law School.  The views expressed herein do not reflect the views of the Clinic or Stanford University.

Contact Amanda McCaffrey at abmcc ‘at’ stanford.edu.

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