Israel bars Human Rights Watch director from entering country, calls org ‘Palestinian propaganda’

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Israeli authorities denied Human Rights Watch’s (HRW) Israel and Palestine director a work visa, the group announced in a statement on Friday. The group said Israel’s Interior Ministry accused  HRW of “Palestinian propaganda” and not being a “real human rights group.”

Omar Shakir was informed that he would be unable to obtain his visa, on Feb. 20, though the information was not public until Friday.

The Interior Ministry reportedly cited an opinion received from Israel’s Foreign Ministry, which stated that HRW’s “public activities and reports have engaged in politics in the service of Palestinian propaganda, while falsely raising the banner of ‘human rights.”

HRW, a well-known nonprofit, nongovernmental human rights organization made up of roughly 400 staff members around the globe, has a history of being critical of Israel’s many human rights violations, labeled so according to international law and conventions.

Shakir responded to the denial on social media, slamming the Interior Ministry’s decision.

“The Israeli government is hardly the only one among the 90+ countries we cover to disagree with our findings, but branding us propagandists and fake human rights advocates puts Israel in the company of states like Egypt, North Korea and Sudan who have blocked access for our staff members,” Shakir said. “Israel claims to be only democracy in the Middle East, but is barring us at a time when our staff is based in and freely operates in several other countries in the region.”

“While the denial comes as a surprise (we have had regular access to Israel/West Bank, though not Gaza for three decades), it comes amid increasing pressure on Israeli and Palestinian rights groups and a wide-ranging assault on basic democratic values. Blocking our access will not silence us,” he added, “We will continue to scrupulously investigate abuses, expose the facts and struggle every day to defend the inherent human dignity of all.”

Iain Levine, deputy executive director of programs at Human Rights Watch said the decision and the “spurious rationale” behind it “should worry anyone concerned about Israel’s commitment to basic democratic values.”

“It is disappointing that the Israeli government seems unable or unwilling to distinguish between justified criticisms of its actions and hostile political propaganda,” Levine said.

On Friday afternoon, Emanuel Nahshon, a spokesperson for Israel’s Interior Ministry told Mondoweiss that Shakir “may enter Israel with a tourist visa” adding that “with regard to the work visa, this may be reconsidered if the organization appeals the Ministry of Interior decision.”

A group of 17 Israeli human rights organization condemned the Interior Ministry’s actions, calling the visa denial a “cause of grave concern.”

“Israel seeks to portray itself as a card-carrying member of the club of democratic countries,” the joint statement said, “Yet what is democracy without free speech, robust public debate and open criticism? A state that defines itself as democratic cannot turn its border control into a thought police.”

The organizations that signed the document were listed as: Adalah Center, Akevot, Amnesty, International Israel, Bimkom, Breaking the Silence. B’Tselem. Coalition of Women for Peace, Emek Shaveh, Gisha, Hamoked: Center for the Defense of the Individual, Haqel-Jews and Arabs in Defense of Human Rights, Human Rights Defenders Fund, Machsom Watch, Negev Coexistence Forum for Civil Equality, Physicians for Human Rights Israel, The Public Committee Against Torture in Israel and Yesh Din.

“Neither closing Israel’s borders to human rights organizations and activists nor other measures by the Israeli government against organizations that criticize the occupation will deter us from continuing to report human rights violations in the territories controlled by Israel,” the groups added. “Attempts to silence the messenger will not suppress our message.”

Letter signed by Israeli NGOs protesting the government’s decision to prohibit Human Rights Watch’s country director from working in Israel. (Photo: Facebook)
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According to Haaretz the Zioland Foreign Ministry has done a U-Turn on this decision allegedly on the instructions of Herr Yahoo. The reasons given for the initial visa rejection as outlined in the letter have presumably evaporated overnight. 24 hours is after all a very short time in the Zio life span. I suspect that someone in the Ziosphere pointed out to Herr Yahoo that this visa ban on an internationally respected organisation of… Read more »

Make as much may as they possibly can from this. HRW in relation to its work in Israel and especially on behalf of the Hamas in Gaza has been totally fleshed out by both supporters of hrw and detractors. There is nothing surprising about the reasoning behind this rejection. Feel free to compare Israel to Egypt all you like. Many of you compare the US to a fascist regime too. It’s become a badge of… Read more »

The correct question is not whether Israel is on par with North Korea or Egypt, rather, the correct question is whether or not HRW is biased against Israel.

The answer to that question, is ‘yes’.

So the American Jewish Congress wants to decide if Keith Ellison is pro Israeli enough to be head of DNC. Apparently he is not good enough for Israel.

@JLewisDickerson Thanks for the great cartoon – the only thing that is missing is a “Je Suis Elor Azaria” badge. @Jackdaw At the risk of offending your ZioSibling DaBakr with my “intolerant leftism” (FFS !) what the eminent Mr Bernstein says in his article is just a regurgitation of the usual Ziobollocks about poor little eternally threatened eternally victimised Zioland being unfairly singled out for “special” criticism by HRW. The article is overflowing with the… Read more »