American student Lara Alqasem (center) appears in Israel’s Supreme Court in Jerusalem on October 17.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
With Wednesday’s Jerusalem District Court decision to approve the Interior Ministry’s order to deport Human Rights Watch’s (HRW) representative regarding Israelis and Palestinians for alleged boycott activities against Israel, the next question is how will the Supreme Court rule?
The question is doubly complex because it comes after the Supreme Court’s October decision blocking the deportation of student Lara Alqasem.
A Tel Aviv District Court judge had approved the Interior Ministry’s decision to deport her for alleged boycott activities before being reversed by the Supreme Court.
So, will HRW’s representative Omar a-Shakir get the same positive reception from the Supreme Court as Alqasem or will the court uphold the Interior Ministry’s deportation order this time.
There are obvious differences between the two cases.
Shakir is an experienced organizational leader, more the type of person that the Supreme Court might have less sympathy for, as opposed to Alqasem, who was a young student.
She said she was here to study at an Israeli university – something which inherently challenged the idea that she was boycotting Israel. He is here to head an organizational office which spends most of its time criticizing Israel.
Of course, Shakir can say that he is not singling out Israel and that HRW criticizes countries all around the world, including Arab powerhouses like Saudi Arabia, if they see human rights violations.
Accordingly, he can argue to the Supreme Court that his motivation is not to boycott Israel per se, but to draw attention to areas where he believes it is violating human rights.
One problem Shakir likely will have is that Judge Tamar Bazak Rappaport carefully analyzed the Supreme Court’s Alqasem decision to portray him as worse.
Rappaport wrote that Alqasem significantly reduced her pro-boycott statements before seeking to spend time in Israel.
In contrast, Shakir at most said that he does not officially call for boycotts from HRW’s platform, but allows himself more poetic license on his individual Twitter account.
It will be hard for the Supreme Court to swallow Shakir’s praise of Airbnb’s move to boycott Israel and encouraging others to act the same as well as his statement criticizing the rental-listings giant for ending its boycott.
Shakir also starts at a disadvantage in that he would like to attack the law’s constitutionality which permits deporting him as a violation of fundamental free speech rights, but the Supreme Court already endorsed the law’s constitutionality in general in the same decision in which they said it should not apply to her.
But probably the hardest issue for Shakir will be that whereas Alqasem was willing to publicly tell the court that she would not call for boycotts, he was not willing and is not willing to say that. For him, this would betray his principles, though he also believes he has abided by Israel’s laws by not specifically calling for boycotts of Israel as much as he has called for respecting human rights worldwide, including in Israel.
Shakir will likely point out to the Supreme Court that deporting him will not reduce HRW’s criticism of Israel in the least.
However, in the current climate, with the Supreme Court about to face a fight with the incoming coalition over its authority as
a co-equal branch of government, it is less likely to rule in favor of someone who will not give it public cover by pledging to tamp down aspects of his criticism.
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