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HRW has ‘octopus tentacles’, Knesset committee hears

Israeli Interior Minister, Aryeh Deri [Adi Cohen Zedek/Wikimedia]
Israeli Interior Minister, Arye Dery [Adi Cohen Zedek/Wikimedia]

The Knesset’s Internal Affairs Committee discussed on Tuesday the government’s decision to revoke the work permit of Human Rights Watch (HRW) official Omar Shakir, with one speaker describing the global rights group as having “octopus tentacles” and promoting a boycott of Israel.

Committee chair MK Yoav Kisch praised the decision taken by Interior Minister Aryeh Deri and Public Security and Strategic Affairs Minister Gilad Erdan to expel Shakir, saying the ministers “benefited the public when they decided not to renew the work permit of a BDS activist”.

“The country is fighting BDS,” Kisch said. “There is no compromise in the fight against them. After the Committee was convinced that the [revocation] process was conducted properly, I believe there should be a consensus that the ministers’ decision was worthy.”

In May, Israeli authorities revoked Shakir’s work permit, and ordered him to leave Israel within 14 days. Shakir – a US citizen – had earlier been granted a one-year visa after being initially denied one. After legal action by HRW, an Israeli court blocked Shakir’s deportation until at least July.

Read: Knesset blocks bill defining Israel as ‘country of all citizens’

Liat Glazer of the Strategic Affairs Ministry told the committee that, having “examined Mr. Shakir’s activity”, they “found out that he continuously supports and promotes boycotts against the state.”

Gerald Steinberg, founder and president of pro-Israel pressure group NGO Monitor, told the committee that Shakir “is not a human rights expert”, while My Israel chair Sara Haetzni-Cohen claimed HRW “has octopus tentacles”, and “promotes boycotts and [anti-Israel] activity”.

MK Talab Abu Arar of the Joint List, meanwhile, told the committee: “This debate is useless. Shakir has an interim order from the court.”

Turning human rights activists into criminals is not right. What offenses has he committed? Does he pose a threat to the country’s security? He is an American activist. This way you will cancel everyone’s visas, because the entire world condemns the occupation.

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