Israel to deny visas to anti-Israel NGO 'Human Rights Watch'

Foreign Ministry: 'Why give working visas to people whose only purpose is to attack us?'

AFP and Arutz Sheva,

Radical anti-Israel NGOs protest in Judea
Radical anti-Israel NGOs protest in Judea
Wisam Hashlamoun/Flash90

Israel will stop issuing work visas to Human Rights Watch staff, the NGO said Friday, with the Jewish State accusing the group of being "fundamentally biased" against it.

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.

Israeli foreign ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon confirmed the decision to AFP.

HRW, he said, had "demonstrated time and again it is a fundamentally biased and anti-Israeli organization with a clear hostile agenda."

But Nahshon added that the group was not banned and its Israeli and Palestinian employees would still be permitted to work in Israel and issue reports.

"But why should we give working visas to people whose only purpose is to besmirch us and to attack us?" he asked.

"We are genuinely shocked," Shakir said in response to the Israeli decision.

"We work in over 90 countries across the world. Many governments don't like our well-researched findings but their response is not to stifle the messenger," he told AFP.

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 mendaciously at the time. Israel provides thousands of Palestinian Arabs with employment at much higher pay than the PA average.

HRW has also staunchly campaigned for Israeli soccer clubs based in Judea and Samaria to be expelled by the sport's governing body FIFA.

"We were shocked they (Israeli authorities) were not able to distinguish between genuine criticism and propaganda," Shakir said. It is unclear under which of the two categories the efforts to expel Israeli soccer clubs fall.

He admitted to having taken part in pro-Palestinian campaigns before joining HRW.

But according to Shakir, Israeli authorities told HRW the visa ban was not targeting him alone but would be applied to all foreign members of the organization.

Nahshon said other organizations such as Amnesty International would be assessed on a case by case basis.

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.

Roy Yellin from the radical-left Israeli NGO B'Tselem said they felt the government was trying to "scapegoat" them.

"It is part of a larger illiberal wave in recent years that is trying to portray critics as enemies of the state," he told AFP, expressing his views by using a sweeping condemnation of Israel that proves the government's point.




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