Israel denies work permit to Human Right
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[February 24, 2017]
By Ori Lewis
JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israel has denied a
work permit to a Human Rights Watch researcher after receiving Foreign
Ministry advice that HRW works "in the service of Palestinian propaganda
under the false banner of human rights," the immigration authority said.
HRW said the move was unexpected, since the organization regularly meets
and corresponds with Israeli government officials, including
representatives of the military, the police, and the Foreign Ministry.
Israel's decision was criticized by the U.S. State Department, which
said, "we strongly disagree with that characterization of HRW ... (which
is) a credible human rights organization."
A photo of a letter to HRW dated Feb. 20 seen by Reuters informing the
group of the permit denial to researcher Omar Shakir, a U.S. citizen who
was to be based permanently in the area. The letter said the immigration
authority had acted "in light of the Foreign Ministry's recommendation".
It gave leave for appeal.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon said the decision was taken
because of HRW's "extreme, hostile anti-Israel agenda which was working
at the service of Palestinian propaganda ... in a totally biased
The group said in a statement that "the decision marks an ominous turn
after nearly three decades during which Human Rights Watch staff has had
regular access without impediments to Israel and the West Bank."
It added that Israel has refused HRW access to Gaza since 2010, except
for one visit in 2016.
Acting U.S. State Department spokesman Mark Toner said that "even though
we do not agree with all of their assertions or conclusions, given the
seriousness of their efforts, we support the importance of the work they
do. We reference HRW reports in our own reporting, including our annual
human rights reports."
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HRW's Iain Levine said that it was "disappointing that the Israeli
government seems unable or unwilling to distinguish between
justified criticisms of its actions and hostile political
The decision to bar the HRW representative is a latest move by
authorities to curb foreign non-governmental organizations who have
issued reports critical of Israeli government actions, particularly
It was initially unclear whether the decision heralded the start of
a new policy by Israel towards foreign citizens working for NGO's.
Last year, Israel's right-wing governing coalition enacted a law
aimed at limiting foreign funding for NGOs it considers critical of
its policies. The law was heavily criticized by the European Union.
Most of the Israeli NGOs that receive support from foreign
governments are left-wing and many oppose the policies of Prime
Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's right-wing government towards the
HRW's Sari Bashi said Israel had joined Cuba, Egypt, North Korea,
Sudan, the United Arab Emirates, Uzbekistan, and Venezuela as
countries that have blocked access to the organization's staff
(Additional reporting by Lesley Wroughton in Washington, Writing by
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