Israel rejects EU concern over treatment of human rights NGO directors

“I advise the EU not to interfere in Israel's internal affairs,” Erdan said.

Israeli Internal Security Minister Gilad Erdan (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Israeli Internal Security Minister Gilad Erdan
Israel does not need moral guidance from the “biased and obsessive” European Union, Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan said on Tuesday, in response to an EU statement of concern regarding Israel’s treatment of two directors of human rights NGOs.
“I advise the EU not to interfere in Israel’s internal affairs,” Erdan said, saying the EU’s relentless campaign against Israel is “full of hypocrisy,” is an attempt to “blacken Israel’s name,” and is doomed to failure.
Earlier in the day the EU’s External Action Service issued a statement saying it expected Israel to reverse its decision to revoke the work visa of Omar Shakir, the Israel/Palestine country director for Human Rights Watch, and to “conduct a swift investigation” into the Haifa demonstrations over the weekend “which appeared to result in serious injury of Jafar Farah.”
Farah is the director of the Haifa-based Mossawa Center – The Advocacy Center for Arab Citizens of Israel.
Under the headline “Statement by the Spokesperson on events concerning the work of human rights defenders in Israel,” the statement said that “support for human rights defenders is an integral part of the European Union’s policy on human rights. Human rights defenders represent natural and indispensable allies in the promotion of human rights in their respective countries.”
The statement said that if Israel did not reverse its decision regarding Shakir, Israel would “join a very short list of countries which have barred entry to, or expelled, Human Rights Watch staff.”
Israel decided not to renew the work visa of Shakir – a US citizen – two weeks ago because it said he supported boycotting Israel.
“It is unacceptable that boycott promoters are allowed visas to stay in Israel while at the same time causing harm to the country,” Interior Minister Arye Deri said in a statement on May 8.
“I will do everything in my ability to prevent such individuals from entering or residing in Israel, and therefore Mr. Shakir has been refused permission to continue to work in the country,” he said.
The Jerusalem District Court on Thursday denied a HRW appeal against the order, and if the Supreme Court does not overturn that decision, Shakir will be deported on Thursday.
Regarding Farah – who alleges that his knee was broken by a police officer who arrested him and held him in custody on Friday after a protest over the recent incidents on the Gaza border – the EU said “it will also be important, as supported by the Israeli government, to conduct a swift investigation into circumstances surrounding events last week in Haifa which appeared to result in [his] serious injury.”
The statement continued: “The European Union continues to stand for an open and conducive environment for civil society, within Europe, in Israel, the occupied Palestinian territory and around the world.”
Matan Peleg, the head of the right-wing NGO Im Tirtzu, said that the EU should abandon its “obsession to discredit the Jewish state, the only country in the Middle East that provides human and civil rights.
“The time has come for the heads of the EU to turn their energy and money to end the slaughter of children in Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Libya, and for the benefit of the wretched Kurds – whom Europe has turned its back on,” he said.
Sometimes, Peleg said, “it seems that the hypocrisy of the European Union in its shameful attitude toward Israel is an incurable disease.”