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Mother of Erez Orbach, killed by Palestinian truck driver in Jerusalem, protests government decision to allow boycott proponent to work in Israel

The mother of a slain Israeli soldier on Thursday petitioned the High Court of Justice against a government decision Wednesday to change course and grant a one-year work visa to an American staffer with Human Rights Watch.

The petition was brought by the NGO Shurat HaDin, an organization that represents terror victims, and Keren Orbach, mother of Erez, one of four soldiers killed by a Palestinian truck driver in Jerusalem in January.

The petition said granting of the visa contravened government policy to ban activists supporting the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement, referring to a recently approved law that allows Israel to bar BDS backers from entering the country.

In February, Israeli authorities turned down an HRW request for a work visa for its regional director Shakir on the grounds that the organization engaged in Palestinian “propaganda.”

At the time, the ministry’s spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon called Human Rights Watch a “blatantly hostile anti-Israeli organization whose reports have the sole purpose of harming Israel with no consideration whatsoever for the truth or reality.”

The ban on Shakir’s entry was reversed less than 24 hours later, when Israeli authorities said he could enter the country on a tourist visa and should reapply for a work visa as well.

On March 6, Shakir successfully entered the country and was granted a 10-day tourist visa and on Wednesday, he received a work visa.

Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, chairwoman of Shurat HaDin, said the “Israeli government has given in once more to foreign pressure.”

“Shakir is not an unbiased human rights researcher, he’s an anti-Israel activist. It’s outrageous that the government would grant him a visa and aid him in carrying out his work against Israel and the IDF,” she added.

A statement from the legal organization charged that Shakir “is grossly biased against Israel and has previously advocated boycotts against the Jewish State, compared Israel to the apartheid regime in South Africa and has called for a Palestinian state to replace the Jewish State of Israel.”

Shakir, a Stanford-educated lawyer, has also done work on human rights in Egypt and Pakistan and at the US detention center at Guantanamo Bay, according to his biography.

Before joining Human Rights Watch in 2016, he was a legal fellow at the Center for Constitutional Rights, an organization that has filed war crimes lawsuits against former Israeli defense minister Moshe Ya’alon and former Shin Bet security service director Avi Dichter.

Shakir himself has campaigned against Israel and is a supporter of BDS. He has compared Israel to apartheid South Africa and equated Zionism to Afrikaner nationalism, which begat apartheid.