Israel accused of ‘witch hunt’ over visa ban

Human Rights Watch's Israel and Palestine director Omar Shakir, a US citizen, sits at his office in the West Bank city of Ramallah on May 9, 2018. (AFP / ABBAS MOMANI)
Updated 17 May 2018
0

Israel accused of ‘witch hunt’ over visa ban

  • Human Rights Watch country director Omar Shakir was issued with a deportation notice by Israel earlier this month after his work visa was revoked.
  • A dossier compiled against Shakir by Israel’s Ministry of Strategic Affairs and Public Diplomacy said he “has actively and consistently supported strategies calling for boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel since his early days as a student.”

AMMAN: Human Rights Watch (HRW) has launched a legal bid to prevent the Israeli government deporting its country director over claims that he expressed support for a boycott of the Jewish state.

Omar Shakir, a US citizen and graduate of Stanford University in California, had his work permit revoked this month despite denying the allegations. 

HRW and Shakir submitted a 145-point, 29-page petition to the Jerusalem District Court on Wednesday, accusing Israel of conducting a “witch hunt” aimed at silencing its critics.

Shakir said the legal action will challenge a controversial Israeli law introduced last year to prevent activists who support an international cultural and economic boycott from entering the country.

“This is a draconian law aimed at muzzling any human rights professional whose work opposes the policies of the state of Israel,” Shakir said.

The law sought to punish individuals for expressing political opinions even before applying for a work permit, he added.

HRW is based in the US and has about 400 staff around the world.

In a statement released after the deportation notice was served early this month, the group republished a dossier it said had been compiled against Shakir by Israel’s Ministry of Strategic Affairs and Public Diplomacy.

Noting that he is “an American citizen of Iraqi origin,” the dossier said Shakir “has actively and consistently supported strategies calling for boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel since his early days as a student.”

The document recommended Shakir “be stripped of his work visa and denied re-entry into the country.”

On May 7, the Israeli government issued HRW with a notice ordering Shakir to leave within 14 days. However, the petition to the Jerusalem court yesterday claimed the deportation order was part of an “Orwellian scenario” and a “witch hunt.”

“The decision is tainted by grievous bad faith” based on previous attempts to stop HRW working in Israel and the occupied territories, the petition said.


Dubai starts its Expo countdown

Updated 17 sec ago
0

Dubai starts its Expo countdown

  • Last year, 10.8 billion dirhams ($2.9 billion) of Expo construction contracts and 411 million didrhams of non-construction contracts were awarded
  • Expo 2020 Dubai is committed to recognizing the efforts and achievements of innovators from across Saudi Arabia and the wider region, Al-Gargawi explained
DUBAI: With only two years to go until the opening of Expo 2020 Dubai, preparations are under way to deliver what will be the first Expo in the region.
More than 170 countries have committed to take part in the event, including Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Italy, the UK, Indonesia and France.
“Everyone at Expo 2020 Dubai is working hard to deliver a World Expo that has real relevance and impact across continents and generations,” said Maha Al-Gargawi, director of international participants for the event. “The UAE is extremely proud to host the Middle East, Africa and South Asia (MEASA) region’s first World Expo, but we also understand that this is a global effort.”
One of the planning team’s main goals is to stage the most international World Expo in history. It expects 70 percent of its visitors to come from outside the UAE — the largest proportion of international visitors in 167 years of World Expos.
“The number of participating countries is significant this far out from the Expo, and we are excited to see how these will bring to life our theme of ‘Connecting Minds, Creating the Future,’ as well as our three key sub-themes of Opportunity, Mobility and Sustainability,” Al-Gargawi said.
“Some countries have already started to reveal their pavilion designs and themes, providing a flavor of what millions of visitors can expect to see at Expo 2020. Combined with the many unique and exciting visitor experiences our team is creating, these engaging national pavilions will help Expo to attract its expected 25 million visits, leaving a lasting impact on everyone who comes.” Saudi Arabia has not yet revealed the details of its pavilion but is expected to do so soon.
Construction is well advanced on the three theme districts that form the core of the Expo site. The foundations are complete and the buildings are taking shape.
To date, more than 42 million work hours have been completed on the site and there are now around 20,000 workers on site.
“When we open our doors on Oct. 20, 2020, we want to welcome visitors and participants to an awe-inspiring site that is flawlessly presented,” Al-Gargawi said. “We are progressing well with the recruitment of more than 30,000 volunteers who will help to welcome the world to the UAE in 2020. They will introduce millions of people to the immersive experiences, exciting events and engaging discussions that will take place at our site every day.”
Last month, Expo 2020 Dubai launched its House of Volunteers — a creative hub that will host special events and exclusive activities for volunteers on the journey to 2020 and throughout the six months of Expo. “As with any project of this magnitude, we have to overcome new obstacles on a daily basis, and our world-class team works closely with partners, participants and other stakeholders to ensure we are able to turn challenges into opportunities,” she explained. “This is what World Expos are all about. We are constantly working to ensure we tweak elements of the Expo to ensure the best possible visitor experience in 2020.”
The Sustainability Pavilion, designed by Grimshaw Architects, explores the potential for buildings to be self-sustaining in water and energy by using innovative combinations of technologies to harvest solar power and water from the air. It is due to be completed by October 2019. “Expo 2020 Dubai represents a unique opportunity to showcase the MEASA region’s culture and achievements and provide a platform for our young and dynamic population to connect with the world,” she said. “We want to trigger a long-term effect in this region and the wider world, inspiring the next generation of innovators, business executives and thought leaders.”
The team is also focused on ensuring that Expo 2020 provides significant economic benefits and investment to stimulate new job opportunities in the UAE and across the region. “Expo 2020 will also provide the UAE and the wider region with an opportunity to show a different, modern, progressive side of our cultures and people to the many millions of visitors we look forward to welcoming from around the world,” Al-Gargawi said. “From the very beginning, Expo 2020 has been committed to building a legacy that is meaningful and sustainable, extending its impact and benefits beyond the UAE to the wider region and the rest of the world. Expo’s long-term approach is based on four pillars: physical, economic, social and reputational.”
Last year, 10.8 billion dirhams ($2.9 billion) of Expo construction contracts and 411 million didrhams of non-construction contracts were awarded. More than 24,000 businesses from 145 countries are registered to do business with Expo 2020 Dubai, and 3,891 contracts have been awarded, with small and medium enterprises winning 56 percent of these.
Expo 2020 will also spur significant long-term economic growth. By building ties that will remain well beyond 2020, Expo will contribute to new business generation, GDP growth and job creation across the Middle East.
“From a social perspective, Expo 2020 is an opportunity to inspire, empower and collaborate with our youth, enabling young people to expand their horizons,” she added. “It will encourage an understanding of — and an interest in — key drivers of future progress in line with our three key sub-themes of Opportunity, Mobility and Sustainability. A number of Middle Eastern countries have already announced their participation, and we expect more to follow in the lead-up to the event. Nations from our region that have already confirmed their participation include Bahrain, Egypt, Kuwait, Oman and Saudi Arabia.”
Expo Live, the event’s innovation and partnership program, provides grants of up to $100,000 for projects that have a positive social or environmental impact. Expo Live is also keen to engage Saudi entrepreneurs. “Expo 2020 Dubai is committed to recognizing the efforts and achievements of innovators from across Saudi Arabia and the wider region,” Al-Gargawi explained. “The program offers an amazing opportunity for social entrepreneurs from Saudi Arabia to show the world how the country is working to benefit communities both domestically and internationally.”
Expo 2020 launched Expo Live to fund, and promote creative solutions that improve people’s lives, preserve the planet or both. “It is harnessing the convening power of World Expos to demonstrate how innovations coming from all places and people can advance the pace of progress and inspire a more inclusive and prosperous future,” she added. “Innovation can come from anywhere to everyone, which is why we want to support projects from Saudi Arabia and beyond, helping change-makers to maximize their impact. Successful applicants may also get the chance to showcase their innovative solutions to millions of visitors at the next World Expo.”