BDS operatives
BDS operativesiStock

Human Rights Watch sued Israel’s Interior Ministry to prevent its local director from being deported over his past involvement in the BDS movement, JTA reported.

The organization filed the lawsuit in Jerusalem District Court on Tuesday in order to keep its director of Israel/Palestine, Omar Shakir, from being deported after his work permit was revoked.

Interior Minister Aryeh Deri announced last week 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.

According to Human Rights Watch, the lawsuit filed Tuesday is the first legal challenge to a 2017 law that bans from Israel those who publicly call for boycotts of the country.

The lawsuit argues that the government went beyond the law in deporting someone with valid status who it acknowledged has not engaged in boycott activities while residing in Israel, and that the motivation behind this move is to curb Human Rights Watch’s activities.

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.

Shakir last week angrily denounced Israel for revoking his permit, accusing Israel of seeking to "silence" criticism.

"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 said.

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