Israel's top court on Tuesday upheld the government's decision to deport a high-profile human rights monitor accused of backing an international boycott campaign of the Jewish state.
The court unanimously chose to uphold the Interior Ministry's refusal to renew the work visa of Human Rights Watch's Israel and Palestine Director Omar Shakir, a U.S. citizen. The court has ordered him to leave the country within 20 days.
Shakir said he was targeted by the Israeli government to stymie criticism of its human rights record.
Israel said Shakir supported the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, a pro-Palestinian initiative that aims to boycott Israeli businesses and goods. Israeli law allows for the deportation of foreigners who support boycotting Israel and denying their entry into the country.
Reuters quoted Israeli Interior Minister Aryeh Deri as praising the judicial decision, saying, "Anyone who acts against the country should know we will not allow them to work or live here."
Shakir told VOA, "We won't let Israel, or any government in the world, dictate who covers [works in] that country or give them a veto power over the work that we do."
Shakir said his deportation is part of a larger systematic crackdown on human rights advocates in the country and around the world, adding that the decision marks the first time in 30 years that HRW had one of its members removed from Israel.
Israel has not charged three other members of HRW's team in the country and Palestinian territories.
The court decision was slammed by other human rights groups.
"With this ruling, the court has made it explicitly clear that those who dare to speak out about human rights violations by the Israeli authorities will be treated as enemies of the state," said Amnesty International's Deputy Middle East and North Africa Director, Saleh Higazi, in a statement posted on the group's website. "Today's decision is a cowardly move that confirms Israel's oppressive intent on silencing independent human rights organizations at any cost."