Supreme Court in Israel freezes deportation order against Human Rights Watch director there

Human Rights Watch’s Israel and Palestine Director Omar Shakir in his office in the West Bank city of Ramallah, May 9, 2018. Israel has given him two weeks to leave the country. Photo: Abbas Momani/AFP/Getty Images

Marcy Oster

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israel’s Supreme Court has frozen the expulsion order against the local director of Human Rights Watch, who was ordered deported over his past involvement in the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement.

Omar Shakir was ordered expelled from the country a year ago. The deportation order was accepted by a district court and upheld by a lower appeals court before heading to the country’s high court.

On Sunday, the Supreme Court issued the interim injunction freezing the deportation order for the duration of legal proceedings. The court also said the appeal will be “scheduled in the current court year,” which ends July 21. The appeal date has not yet been set, however.

When Shakir, a California native, was appointed to his position in February 2017, he was denied both a work visa and a tourist visa by Israel. A month later he was allowed entry to Israel — the same day the Knesset passed a law banning entry to foreigners who publicly call for boycotting the Jewish state or its settlements. The following month he was granted a work visa.

The Interior Ministry compiled a seven-page dossier to support its deportation order against Shakir. Much of the dossier covers a time period before Shakir assumed his position at Human Rights Watch, including a great deal of his time at Stanford University.

According to the organization, the lawsuit is the first legal challenge to the 2017 law that bans from Israel those who publicly call for boycotts of the country.