Published: Sat, February 25, 2017
Global | By Maureen Mccoy

Israel Bars Foreign Human Rights Watch Staff for Serving 'Palestinian Propaganda'

Israel Bars Foreign Human Rights Watch Staff for Serving 'Palestinian Propaganda'

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

The Israeli decision on one of the world's most prominent nongovernmental organizations in its field emerged after Israeli authorities turned down a visa for its new Israel and Palestine director, Omar Shakir, who is a USA citizen, The Guardian reported Friday.

The HRW further said it had been informed by Tel Aviv that the request had been rejected because it is "not a real human rights group".

Emmanuel Nahshon, a spokesperson for the Israeli foreign ministry, denied that the group was banned and said Israeli and Palestinian employees would still be granted work permits, but questioned why visas should be given "to people whose only objective is to besmirch us and to attack us?" according to AFP.

Nahshon also said that HRW was not banned and its Israeli and Palestinian employees would still be permitted to work in Israel and issue reports.

The global watchdog has investigated human rights abuses in many crisis areas worldwide, and published a string of reports that were critical of Israeli policies.

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.

Human Rights Watch had asked for a work permit for a researcher who is a US Citizen in July.

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Human Rights Watch denied this allegation and condemned the move as "ominous turn" adding it "should worry anyone concerned about Israel's commitment to basic democratic values".

"The Israeli government is hardly the only one to disagree with our well-researched findings, but efforts to stifle the messenger signal that it has no appetite for serious scrutiny of its human rights record", Levine said.

In response to Tel Aviv's decision, Shakir said the HRW is "genuinely shocked", and said, "We work in over 90 countries across the world. It is disappointing that the Israeli government seems unable or unwilling to distinguish between justified criticisms of its actions and hostile political propaganda". He said that Israeli and Palestinian staff members of the organization will be allowed to continue their work.

Israel has long accused the group, as well as other human rights organisations, of focusing excessively and unfairly on it and failing to adequately recognise terrorist threats.

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

Last year, the Foreign Ministry even requested HRW intervene in a case involving Israeli victims of human rights abuses.

Right-wing NGOs, such as those supporting Israeli settlements, tend to rely on private donations, to which the law does not apply. Israel had now joined Cuba, Egypt, North Korea, Sudan, the United Arab Emirates, Uzbekistan, and Venezuela as countries that have impeded its access, HRW said.

The organizations that signed the document were listed as: Adalah Center, Akevot, Amnesty, International Israel, Bimkom, Breaking the Silence.

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