Boycott Israel sign in Bethlehem
Boycott Israel sign in Bethlehem Miriam Alster/Flash 90

The head of Human Rights Watch in Israel on Wednesday blasted the country’s decision to expel him, accusing Israel of seeking to "silence" criticism.

Interior Minister Aryeh Deri announced on Tuesday he had terminated Shakir’s residency permit due to his actions against Israel. He was ordered to leave Israel within 14 days.

Deri made his decision on the recommendation of the Strategic Affairs Ministry headed by Minister Gilad Erdan.

The recommendation included information about Shakir's activities over the years, according to which he is a Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) operative.

Shakir rejected the allegation he supported a boycott and said Israel was seeking to silence dissent.

"The proffered reason is support for boycott, but the reality is that this is a decision to muzzle Human Rights Watch and to silence criticism of Israel's poor rights record," he told AFP at his office in Ramallah.

Israel, he said, joins a list of countries including "North Korea, Cuba, Iran and Sudan that have blocked access to Human Rights Watch staff."

London-based Amnesty International "strongly condemned" the Israeli decision.

"This is yet another alarming sign of the country's increasing intolerance of critical voices," it said, according to AFP.

"The Israeli authorities must immediately stop their ongoing harassment of human rights defenders," it added.

Shakir received a work permit in April of last year, months after Israel barred his entry due to the group's anti-Israel bias.

Israel in February of that year rejected Shakir's request for a work permit, saying HRW had "demonstrated time and again it is a fundamentally biased and anti-Israeli organization with a clear hostile agenda".

Later, however, the Foreign Ministry said Shakir could appeal the decision not to grant him a visa.

Israel has stepped up its fight against BDS in recent months, putting together a list of activists and organizations which boycott Israel, with the goal of preventing their entry into the country.

In January, Israel’s government approved a plan which will set aside $72 million to fighting the campaign to boycott it.

The plan, which would entail the largest monetary investment yet by Israel specifically toward combating the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign, calls for setting up a not-for-profit organization whose board will be made up of government officials and donors from abroad.