Israel willing to reconsider denial of visa to HRW

Foreign Ministry spokesman says Human Rights Watch can appeal Israel’s decision not to issue a work visa to its staff.

Arutz Sheva North America Staff ,

Anti-Israel NGOs protest in Judea
Anti-Israel NGOs protest in Judea
Wisam Hashlamoun/Flash 90

Human Rights Watch (HRW) can appeal Israel’s decision not to issue a work visa to the group’s "Israel and Palestine Director", Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon said on Friday.

The NGO announced earlier Friday that Israel would stop issuing work visas to its staff, with Israel noting the group’s "fundamental bias" against the Jewish state.

The New York-based organization, which has written critical reports accusing Israel of "severe and discriminatory restrictions on Palestinians’ human rights," applied months ago for a visa for its "Israel and Palestine Director," American citizen Omar Shakir.

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.

Nahshon said later on Friday that Israel is willing to reexamine the organization's request if the rights group appeals the original decision.

"Human Rights Watch representatives can of course enter Israel with tourists' visas," Nahshon said, according to Haaretz. "Regarding work visas, the issue will be reexamined by the relevant authorities if the original decision will be appealed."

A senior Israeli official, who requested to stay anonymous due to the sensitivity of the issue, said that the Foreign Ministry's change of heart came after a directive from Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, who also serves as foreign minister.

According to the official, Netanyahu, who is currently in Australia, was unaware of the decision to refuse the work visa for HRW and first learned of it through media reports.

Last year HRW published a report, "Occupation Inc", asserting that international and Israeli companies operating in Israeli communities in Judea and Samaria were contributing to rights abuses.

"Settlement businesses unavoidably contribute to Israeli policies that dispossess and harshly discriminate against Palestinians, while profiting from Israel's theft of Palestinian land and other resources," HRW's Arvind Ganesan said at the time, ignoring the fact that Israel provides thousands of Palestinian Arabs with employment at much higher pay than the Palestinian Authority average.

Last year, the Knesset passed a law compelling Israeli NGOs that receive most of their funding from foreign state entities to declare it in official reports.

The law did not specifically refer to left-wing organizations, but is applicable to some 25 NGOs.

Right-wing NGOs, such as those supporting Israeli communities in Judea and Samaria, tend to rely on private donations, to which the law does not apply.

(Arutz Sheva’s North American desk is keeping you updated until the start of Shabbat in New York. The time posted automatically on all Arutz Sheva articles, however, is Israeli time.)



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