'Deporting human rights defenders is a page out of the Russian or Egyptian security services’ playbook', monitor cautions.
Israel has ordered the head of the local office of Human Rights Watch to leave within 14 days, accusing him of supporting a boycott against the Jewish state.
The New York-based human rights monitor aid it would stand by Omar Shakir, a US citizen of Iraqi descent.
It accused Israel of trying to suppress criticism of its human rights record and said it would challenge the decision in court.
Mr Shakir has denied the accusation against him.
Israel initially denied Mr Shakir a work permit last year, in a move criticised by the US. It later granted him a one-year work visa.
Iain Levine, an HRW official, said Israel’s actions, such as compiling a dossier on Mr Shakir, and “deporting human rights defenders is a page out of the Russian or Egyptian security services’ playbook”.
He added: ”This is not about Shakir, but rather about muzzling Human Rights Watch and shutting down criticism of Israel’s rights record.”
The country’s interior minister, Aryeh Deri, alleged Mr Shakir is a “boycott activist” and said he “will act to expel people like this from the country” with all means at his disposal.
He said he was acting on the recommendation of Gilad Erdan, the minister for strategic affairs, whose department said it had gathered data showing Mr Shakir had supported a boycott of Israel for years.
On Twitter, Mr Shakir said he had been ordered out of the country after Israel compiled a seven-page intelligence dossier on him.
“First time in [Human Rights Watch] history Israel orders official out,” he said. “Year ago it denied work permit before reversing, accusing us of ‘propaganda’. Now its BDS [boycott, divestment and sanctions].
“Real aim to muzzle dissent.”