Sunday, May 12, 2019

Anti-Israel bias at Human Rights Watch (Part 1: Omar Shakir)

Posted by , legalinsurrection.comSaturday, May 11, 2019

The long history of anti-Israel bias by Shakir and HRW is a critical consideration for Israel in deciding whether Shakir has a “right” to remain in the country as a human rights worker.

Israel has refused to renew a visa for Omar Shakir of Human Rights Watch (HRW) to remain in Israel as a human rights worker, based on his long history of anti-Israel activism. This has caused a storm of controversy and lawsuits, leading to the fair question: Is Shakir entitled to a work visa to promote human rights if what he really is promoting is anti-Israel activism and the destruction of Israel?
Not surprisingly, the international media has taken Shakir’s side.

Under the title “Israel plans to deport a U.S. human rights activist. Democrats are pushing back,” the Washington Post recently reported about the case of Shakir, director of the HRW office for Israel and the Palestinian territories. A few weeks earlier, the paper had published an op-ed by Shakir under the title “Israel wants to deport me for my human rights work.”

Needless to say, many other outlets have covered this story in similar terms.

In most cases, the implications of the articles are clear: the Jewish state has been exposed by HRW as a serial abuser of human rights, and it now wants to do its dirty work without being closely monitored by a respected organization like HRW.  But it’s a false narrative.

Since all too many influential politicians, public figures and journalists are apparently unaware of the truly shameless bias HRW has long held against Israel, it is time for a reminder. Indeed, such a reminder seems all the more urgent given that the recent letter on behalf of Omar Shakir and HRW signed by 17 Democratic lawmakers reportedly stated:
“To carry out our own human rights work and responsibilities in the U.S. House of Representatives, we rely on the reports of Human Rights Watch for balanced accounts of human rights violations wherever they may occur, including here in the United States.”
When it comes to Israel – and likely also when it comes to the US and some other countries – it is quite unrealistic to expect HRW to provide “balanced accounts,” though “balanced” is already a curious choice of words: what exactly are HRW accounts ‘balancing’?

The answer is that HRW accounts are ‘balancing’ the deeply rooted ideological views of its top officials and staff with cherry-picked facts and carefully tailored narratives.

In the following, I will focus on Omar Shakir’s case; a second part (to be published separately) will explain why Shakir’s case must be seen in the broader context of the openly displayed hatred for Israel by top HRW officials, in particular Sarah Leah Whitson, executive director of the Middle East and North Africa Division at HRW.  As I will show, Whitson’s brazenly biased conduct also justifies the conclusion that her own politics trumps facts and concern for serious human rights abuses even when it’s not about Israel.

The inevitable conclusion is that as important as it would be to have reliable reporting about human rights abuses, HRW is clearly a deeply compromised organization that cannot be trusted to provide truly impartial assessments. ...

Support for Anti-Zionist ‘Jewish Voice for Peace’ (JVP)

On March 30, 2017, Shakir tweeted: “Vicious attack on JVP, other rights defenders reflect gov[ernment] intolerant of dissent, afraid of scrunity [sic!] of rights record.”
Shakir’s tweet tagged Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) and linked to a document uploaded by the group. The document purports to be an official statement from Israel’s Ministry of Public Security, Strategic Affairs and Public Diplomacy [JB emphasis] , condemning an upcoming JVP conference and noting prominently: “One of the main speakers at the conference is Rasmah Odeh, a convicted terrorist who was active with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine terror organization. Rasmah was convicted and imprisoned in Israel for her terrorist activities.” The document also quotes Minister of Strategic Affairs Gilad Erdan as saying: “The JVP is an anti-Semitic organization which incites against Israel. It regularly cooperates with extremist organizations which seek Israel’s destruction. It is inexcusable that the organization chose to host at its conference a terrorist who was convicted for her involvement in murdering two Israeli students.”

JVP had indeed announced the meeting already in early March 2017, noting right at the outset: “Jewish Voice for Peace is honored to feature deeply respected Palestinian organizer Rasmea Odeh at our upcoming National Membership Meeting.” The announcement further praised Odeh as “a feminist leader in the Palestinian and Arab-American community in Chicago” and brazenly asserted that the “accusations against Odeh stem from a context of long-standing anti-Palestinian and anti-Muslim persecution by both the Israeli state and the United States. […] The story of Rasmea Odeh’s label as “terrorist” is a story of Israeli apartheid: a story of displacement and refugees, of occupation and unjust targeting by the security state, of political imprisonment, sexual violence, and torture.”

That this is how JVP would describe a terrorist who had helped to perpetrate a deadly supermarket bombing in Jerusalem is a good introduction if you are not familiar with the group. But it’s important to know a bit more about JVP, because Shakir clearly regards the group as “rights defenders” and thinks that by criticizing JVP’s glorification of a murderous terrorist, the Israeli government shows that it is “intolerant of dissent, afraid of scrunity [scrutiny] of rights record.” ...