PODCAST: Who will Israel deport next?

Attorney Emily Schaeffer Omer-Man explains how, in deporting Human Rights Watch's Omar Shakir, Israel is now policing the speech and political opinions of human rights advocates.

Human Rights Watch Israel and Palestine Director Omar Shakir parts with friends and supporters at Ben-Gurion Airport ahead of his deportation from Israel, November 25, 2019 (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org).
Human Rights Watch Israel and Palestine Director Omar Shakir parts with friends and supporters at Ben-Gurion Airport ahead of his deportation from Israel, November 25, 2019 (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org).

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The deportation of Omar Shakir, the Israel and Palestine director of Human Rights Watch, put a spotlight on Israel’s attempts to suppress dissent and criticism of its policies in the occupied territories.

For Emily Schaeffer Omer-Man, one of the lawyers representing Shakir in his lengthy battle to stay in the country, the deportation “has huge potential ramifications” not only for foreign nationals trying to enter the country to work, study, or visit family, but also Israeli citizens and particularly Palestinians living under occupation.

“The minute that Israel decides that it’s its right to vet who gets to come in and work for human rights organizations is the minute that we see crystal clear that Israel’s democracy is eroding,” Schaeffer Omer-Man told The +972 Podcast.

While Israel has always had laws that allow it to conduct security screenings and background checks on people living in and entering the country — as other countries also do — she says that Shakir’s case shows Israel’s turn toward policing speech and political opinions.

Israeli human rights attorney Emily Schaeffer Omer-Man. ‘The minute Israel decides to vet who gets to come in is the minute that we see crystal clear that Israel’s democracy is eroding.’ (Photo courtesy of Emily Schaeffer Omer-Man)
Israeli human rights attorney Emily Schaeffer Omer-Man. ‘The minute Israel decides to vet who gets to come in is the minute that we see crystal clear that Israel’s democracy is eroding.’ (Photo courtesy of Emily Schaeffer Omer-Man)

Advocates around the world have condemned Israel’s decision to kick Shakir out, warning of a chilling effect against other human rights workers in the country. Those effects, says Schaeffer Omer-Man, can already be felt: visitors, citizens, and activists alike are now silencing themselves in fear of retaliation.

“That obviously harms any movement to progress forward with Palestinian human rights and Palestinian freedom,” she says. “It also denies Palestinians access to those who would otherwise support them, stand in solidarity with them and speak out on their behalf and alongside them. And it means that the Israeli human rights community starts to feel smaller and smaller.”

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Find Emily Schaeffer Omer-Man on Twitter at @emilyatlaw