An 'Ominous' Move: Israel Denies Visa to 'Hostile' Human Rights Watch

25 February, 2017, 00:42 | Author: Essie Rivera
  • Human Rights Watch Israel and Palestine director Omar Shakir

Human Rights Watch had reportedly applied months ago for Omar Shakir, the organization's Israel and Palestine director and a USA citizen of Iraqi descent, to work in Israel and received a letter Monday.

The Interior Ministry cited guidance from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in a letter explaining its decision not to grant Human Rights Watch's request.

On the Israel/Palestine page on its website, Human Rights Watch criticizes Israel for "severe and discriminatory restrictions on Palestinians' human rights" and for building "unlawful settlements" in the occupied West Bank.

The decision marks an ominous turn after almost three decades during which Human Rights Watch staff have had regular access without impediments to Israel and the West Bank. Shakir is a United States citizen and has traveled to Israel three times in the past prior to his work with Human Rights Watch.

The characterization of Human Rights Watch promoting Palestinian propaganda does not square with the research and advocacy that the organization conducts to challenge violations of human rights and global humanitarian law by all actors in the region, including the Palestinian Authority and the Hamas government in Gaza.

In July 2016, Israel's parliament, the Knesset, passed a law targeting human rights groups and NGOs that receive foreign funding.

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Human Rights Watch is an independent, international, nongovernmental organization that promotes respect for human rights and international law.

In December Israel detained at Ben Gurion airport and then deported a prominent African theologian, Isabel Phiri, over claims that the World Council of Churches, for who she works, was engaged in supported sanctions against Israel. The organization has offices in 90 countries, and shared in the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize for its work against landmines.

In 2011, Kathleen Peratis, co-chair of the Advisory Committee of HRW's Middle East and North Africa Division, visited Gaza and met with several Hamas officials. Last year, they compiled a report titled "Occupation Inc" on companies contributing to abuses in the West Bank. The Israeli media often covers these reports.

On February 20, Israeli authorities informed it the request had been rejected because HRW is "not a real human rights group", the group said in a statement.

The characterization of Human Rights Watch promoting Palestinian propaganda does not square with the research and advocacy that the organization conducts to challenge violations of human rights and worldwide humanitarian law by all actors in the region, including the Palestinian Authority and the Hamas government in Gaza. The HRW representative could enter Israel on a tourist visa and the work visa application may be reconsidered if an appeal is lodged. "The decision marks an ominous turn after almost three decades during which Human Rights Watch staff have had regular access without impediments to Israel and the West Bank".

"We are deeply disturbed at the lenient sentence given by the Tel Aviv Military Court earlier this week to an Israeli soldier convicted of unlawfully killing a wounded Palestinian in an apparent extrajudicial execution of an unarmed man who clearly posed no imminent threat", Shamdasani said Friday in Geneva, according to Al Jazeera. "Many governments don't like our well-researched findings but their response is not to stifle the messenger".

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