BDS - Anti-Israel protest in London
BDS - Anti-Israel protest in LondonReuters

Israel’s Interior Ministry is considering retracting a work permit issued to a prominent anti-Israel activist and attorney who has promoted the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement and compared Zionism to apartheid.

Omar Shakir, a regional director of the radical anti-Israel NGO Human Rights Watch, was initially denied a work permit in Israel this February.

The Interior Ministry responded to Shakir’s request for a permit, citing his organization’s history of having “engaged in politics in the service of Palestinian propaganda, while falsely raising the banner of ‘human rights’.”

Foreign Ministry spokesperson Emmanuel Nahshon slammed HRW as a “blatantly hostile anti-Israeli organization whose reports have the sole purpose of harming Israel with no consideration whatsoever for the truth.”

Shakir, an Iraqi-American who currently serves as the Israel and Palestine Director at HRW previously served as a legal fellow at the Center for Constitutional Rights, an NGO behind several high-profile cases against the Bush administration’s policies at the Guantanamo Bay detainment facility. The CCR also initiated a series of war crimes claims against senior Israeli security officials, including former Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon.

Following the rejection, Shakir compared Israel to totalitarian regimes in North Korea and Cuba.

“We have little relations with governments in North Korea, Sudan, Uzbekistan, Cuba and Venezuela where there is zero appetite for human rights engagement,” Shakir said. “With this decision, Israel is joining the list.”

HRW appealed the Interior Ministry’s decision, and in April Shakir was issued a work permit.

Now, however, the Interior Ministry is again reviewing Shakir’s case, following an appeal by the Shurat Hadin watchdog organization.

In its appeal, Shurat Hadin noted that HRW activities vis-à-vis Israel were consistently hostile and founded upon “lies against the State of Israel”.

Even HRW’s founder and former chairman Robert L. Bernstein has criticized the group in recent years for its intense anti-Israel bias, accusing it of working to help “those who wish to turn Israel into a pariah state.”

“The [Middle East] is populated by authoritarian regimes with appalling human rights records. Yet in recent years Human Rights Watch has written far more condemnations of Israel for violations of international law than of any other country in the region,” Bernstein wrote in The New York Times.

This week, the Interior Ministry announced that it had agreed to reopen Shakir’s case, following the petition by Shurat Hadin.

“At the end of the day, it is our soldiers and our army that will pay the price for the government’s surrender, and they are the ones who will be accused of war crimes,” wrote Shurat Hadin chief Nitsana Darshan-Leitner. “Today, [Shakir] is beginning work on the Goldstone report,” referring to an anti-Israel report issued by a UN mission to Gaza following the 2008-2009 Gaza conflict.