Israel denies tourist visa to Human Rights Watch staffer


(JTA) — Israel has denied a tourist visa to an American employee of Human Rights Watch days after denying his application for a work visa, citing the NGO’s alleged anti-Israel bias.

Omar Shakir, the new Israel and Palestine director for Human Rights Watch, a leading nongovernmental organization, reported in an emailed statement Thursday and on Facebook that the Interior Ministry had denied his request to enter Israel on March 5 for a 10-day visit.

A letter from the Border Control Department of the Population and Immigration Authority noted the Foreign Ministry’s response when Shakir requested a work visa in denying the application: “For some time now, this organization’s public actions and reports have focused on politics in service of Palestinian propaganda while falsely raising the banner of ‘human rights,’ and therefore recommended denying the application.”

Iain Levine, the program director for Human Rights Watch, said it was “deeply troubling that Israeli officials, despite promises to the contrary, have denied Human Rights Watch’s country director a visa to enter Israel.”

“Blocking access for human rights workers impedes our ability to document abuses by all sides and to engage the Israeli and Palestinian authorities and partners to improve the human rights situation for all,” he said.

After Shakir had been denied a work visa on Feb. 21, an Israeli official said he could apply for a tourist visa, implying that it would be granted. Shakir has 45 days to file an appeal.

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