Editorial

North Korea, Sudan and Israel

Omar Shakir and the Palestine Director at Human Rights Watch at his hearing at the district court in Jerusalem, April 16, 2019.
Ammar Awad/Reuters

The government insists on pursuing its futile struggle against the anti-Israel boycott, divestment and sanctions movement. The High Court of Justice on Wednesday postponed the hearing on the deportation of Omar Shakir, Human Rights Watch’s representative in the occupied territories – which was scheduled to take place Thursday – “until September, at least.” Shakir is accused of supporting the BDS movement.

In May, at the behest of the Strategic Affairs Ministry, headed by Gilad Erdan, Interior Minister Arye Dery voided Shakir’s work visa because of what Dery called “anti-Israel activity.” The case against Shakir prepared by Erdan’s investigators said Shakir “frequently retweets and shares content on the subject of BDS against Israel.”

>> Read more: Expulsion of human rights watch director would be big show of Israeli hypocrisy | Opinion 

Shakir appealed to the Supreme Court after the Jerusalem District Court upheld the government’s decision to revoke his visa. The panel of justices hearing his appeal – Justices Neal Hendel, Noam Sohlberg and Yael Willner – doesn’t offer much hope that his appeal will be accepted. The reason the hearing was postponed was to give the state time to prepare for Amnesty International and a group of former Israeli diplomats joining Shakir’s appeal as friends of the court. Earlier, a number of right-wing organizations were permitted to join the demand to deport Shakir as friends of the court.

This whole case is foolish, even by the standards of Erdan, Dery and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Israel’s clumsy attempts to silence political criticism only arm its critics, both domestic and foreign, because they testify to the anti-democratic processes unfolding here. Netanyahu’s right-wing government refuses to understand that the tools used in the struggle against those who oppose Israel’s policies sully its reputation even more. HRW director Kenneth Roth said that if Israel expels its representative, it would “join the likes of North Korea, Venezuela, Cuba, Sudan and Iran, which also exclude our representatives. That is not a club Israel should be eager to join.”

Roth is apparently not up to date. Netanyahu in his most recent term seemed enthusiastic about broadening his circle of ultra-nationalist, populist, minority-hating friends who are fed up with democracy, at the expense of liberal governments of countries that until recently had been considered the State of Israel’s natural milieu. But experience shows that even these new friends won’t give Israel a free hand to persecute and deport as it pleases. Only last week Israel announced that it would permit U.S. Representatives Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib to enter Israel and the territories next month, even though they have expressed support for BDS.

The struggle against the BDS movement is damaging and unnecessary. Instead of expelling those who oppose Israeli policies and persecuting human rights activists, the government should understand that the only way to rebuff criticism of the occupation is to bring it to an end.

The above article is Haaretz’s lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.