Israel Accuses Human Rights Watch Of 'Propaganda,' Denies Access

Posted February 25, 2017

"The opinion received from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs noted that, for some time now, this organization's public activities and reports have engaged in politics in the service of Palestinian propaganda, while falsely raising the banner of "human rights", and therefore recommended denying the application", the Interior Ministry said in a letter it sent to the group that was publicized on Friday.

In response, HRW said that this comes as the Israelis seek to limit the space for local and worldwide human rights groups to operate in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories. The group said Israel's Interior Ministry accused HRW of "Palestinian propaganda" and not being a "real human rights group".

It was a conclusion reached by the foreign ministry, the letter said.

Emmanuel Nahshon, a foreign ministry spokesman, told the AFP news agency that the group was not banned, and any Israeli and Palestinian employees would still be allowed to operate in Israel, but said: "Why should we give working visas to people whose only goal is to besmirch us and to attack us?"

Israel has denied a visa for a Human Rights Watch researcher while accusing the group of spreading "Palestinian propaganda".

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.

Jennifer Gorovitz, a vice president of the New Israel Fund who was delayed at Ben Gurion Airport earlier this month and questioned about her work, said the "Netanyahu government has proven that the test for entering the country is a political one - either you agree with Netanyahu's ultra-right wing coalition or you're out".

"This decision and the spurious rationale should worry anyone concerned about Israel's commitment to basic democratic values", commented Deputy Executive Director of Programmes at HRW, Lain Levine.

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It is not the first time the organisation has faced criticism and resistance from governments.

"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.

"Israeli government says the only objective of HRW is to "besmirch" Israel", Baldwin wrote early Friday morning.

Last year, HRW issued a report, "Occupation Inc".

While the decision was deemed "ominous" by HRW, the organization has had its ability to investigate human rights abuses in the West Bank sharply truncated ever since 2010, with Israel refusing HRW staff access to the area without impediments - save for a single visit in 2016. While the law's wording does not specifically refer to any organization, pro-Israel NGOs are not impacted by its requirements.

On Twitter, Shakir noted that while Israel was far from unique in contesting HRW's findings, it was nearly alone in blocking the organization from entering the country - only states such as North Korea, Sudan, Uzbekistan and Venezuela "where there is zero appetite for human rights engagement" had done the same to date.

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