A Palestinian woman paints a mural, depicting a masked Palestinian holding a knife, in support of Palestinians committing stabbing attacks against Israelis, in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The Interior Ministry has denied a worker’s permit to a Human Rights Watch staff member on the grounds that the international NGO is engaged in pro-Palestinian propaganda.
“The opinion received from the Foreign Affairs Ministry 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.
Human Rights Watch, in July, had requested a work permit for a researcher who is a US citizen.
The group said it was surprised by the response because it “regularly meets and corresponds with Israeli government officials, including representatives of the military, police and Foreign Ministry.”
It added that the Foreign Ministry, last year, even asked it to “intervene in a case involving Israeli victims of human rights abuses.”
In addition to criticizing Israeli actions against Palestinians, Human Rights Watch said it also has spoken out against Hamas and the Palestinian Authority.
The organization has offices in 90 countries, and shared in the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize for its work against land mines.
“This decision and the spurious rationale should worry anyone concerned about Israel’s commitment to basic democratic values,” said Iain Levine, deputy executive program director at Human Rights Watch. “It is disappointing that the Israeli government seems unable or unwilling to distinguish between justified criticisms of its actions and hostile political propaganda.
“We hope the Israeli authorities will reverse this decision and allow both international and domestic human rights groups to work freely,” he added.
The group plans to appeal to a Jerusalem district court to overturn the ruling.
Some 17 nongovernmental groups including Yesh Din and B’Tselem issued a statement Friday protesting the decision, and Yesh Din also tweeted that “border control is not thought control.”
The Foreign Ministry responded that representatives of Human Rights Watch could enter the country on tourist visas and that the issue of a work permit would be reexamined if the decision is appealed.
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 members.Reuters contributed to this report.