Ben-Dror Yemini
Ben-Dror Yemini
Photo: Ynet
Omar Shakir at the Supreme Court in Jerusalem in 2019 as he unsuccessfully appealed his deportation from Israel

A most dangerous and mendacious report

Opinion: The latest Human Rights Watch diatribe against Israel is one-sided and holds the country to a higher standard than the rest of the world; hardly surprising given that its author has spent years campaigning against Israel's right to exist

Ben-Dror Yemini |
Published: 04.27.21, 12:44
Let us imagine for just one moment that an Iranian official penned a damning report on human rights in Sweden, or a member of the American far-right wrote about the Democratic Party in the U.S.
Would anyone take such a document seriously?
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  • But we are expected to all take heed of "A Threshold Crossed," a new report criticizing Israel written by Omar Shakir, who heads the Israeli-Palestinian desk at Human Rights Watch.
    Shakir is a provocateur and a quarrel-monger, who has spent more than a decade campaigning to deny Israel's right to exist.
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    Human Rights Watch official Omar Shakir in court in Jerusalem
    Human Rights Watch official Omar Shakir in court in Jerusalem
    Omar Shakir at the Supreme Court in Jerusalem in 2019 as he unsuccessfully appealed his deportation from Israel
    (Photo: Reuters)
    He actually resided in Israel until the Supreme Court revoked his residency permit when the scale of his actions against the very existence of the State of Israel was revealed.
    He was also denied entry to Bahrain when he wanted to attend a FIFA conference solely to persuade the organization to boycott the Israeli national soccer team.
    Shakir's abysmal hatred of Israel is evident even when compared to the established hostility of other bodies branding themselves as "human rights organizations."
    As far back as 2010, Shakir was urging the Palestinians to abandon the right to self-determination and instead adopt the terminology of apartheid and universal rights in order to make a single binational state a reality.
    In 2015, he signed a petition opposing a visit to Israel by a group of Muslims who were supposed to be guests of the Hartman Institute in Jerusalem.
    It goes without saying that Shakir is a clear supporter of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, an organization whose leaders do not try to disguise the fact that they are working for not peace but for the elimination of Israel.
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    A BDS protest against Israel in Sydney, Australia
    A BDS protest against Israel in Sydney, Australia
    A BDS protest against Israel in Sydney, Australia
    (Photo: citizenside.com)
    With this stellar anti-Israel record, Shakir's services were engaged by HRW in 2016 for more of the same.
    This new report authored by Shakir is pure fiction. It is the same old tired political position he has been touting for years.
    He published a similar report on behalf of HRW in December 2019 and continues to deliver the goods.
    Another report from HRW in May 2020 even led Hamas (yes, Hamas!) to quickly issue a congratulatory message the group. Hardly surprising.
    The positions of Shakir and his organization are supported by a coalition that extends from Iran, Hezbollah and Hamas to "human rights organizations" that have allowed themselves to become the propaganda wing for some very dark groups.
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    איראן חגיגות תהלוכות 42 שנה למהפכה האיסלאמית טהרן שורפים דגל ישראל
    איראן חגיגות תהלוכות 42 שנה למהפכה האיסלאמית טהרן שורפים דגל ישראל
    Iranians burn an Israeli flag during celebrations to mark the 42nd anniversary of the Islamic revolution, Feb. 2021
    (Photo: AP)
    Indeed, the harshest criticism of the organization came from the very man who founded it, Robert Bernstein, who wrote in a 2009 piece in the New York Times that, "Human Rights Watch has lost critical perspective on a conflict in which Israel has been repeatedly attacked by Hamas and Hezbollah, organizations that go after Israeli citizens and use their own people as human shields."
    In fairness, one should deal not only with the author and the organization behind the report, but with the report itself. The problem is that this is not really a report. It is a systematic collection of anti-Israel material emanating from those same organizations that Shakir already supports.
    In the 200 or so pages of the report, HaMoked is mentioned 62 times, Adalah 77 times, Gisha 92 times and B'Tselem 151 times. But the record goes to Haaretz newspaper, which is cited a massive 190 times.
    In reality, Shakir did no fact checking or investigations of his own, and the concept of fairness does not even come into it. He pored over anti-Israel publications that pretend to be objectively critical and gathered anything that matched his preestablished hostility. The outcome was decided in advance.
    Even worse, Shakir does not bother to hide the fact that he is undermining the very legitimacy of self-determination for the Jewish people.
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    The UN vote on the Partition Plan on November 29, 1947
    The UN vote on the Partition Plan on November 29, 1947
    The UN vote on the Partition Plan on November 29, 1947
    (Photo: Archive)
    This is why the report targets the Law of Return at the outset. Shakir of course omits the fact that the UN stated in its 1947 Partition Plan that Israel is a "Jewish state," and the Law of Return is a natural manifestation of that decision.
    According to the HRW report, the prevention of Palestinian immigration to Israel after marriage is another manifestation of apartheid.
    Can Shakir name one democratic nation that does allow immigration by the members of a hostile entity following marriage? Of course not.
    In fact it is Shakir's report that practices apartheid, for at its heart it is grounded in one law for Israel and one law for the rest of the world.
    The report also deals with the Gaza Strip, mentioning the closure dozens of times – of course.
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    התפרעויות פלסטינים גבול רצועת עזה
    התפרעויות פלסטינים גבול רצועת עזה
    A Palestinian protests along the Gaza border with Israel, Feb, 2019
    (Photo: AFP)
    And what is problematic about that? Well, there is not a solitary word in the report about the repeated proposals that the rulers of the Gaza Strip received from the international community, in particular the Mideast Quartet, to end the closure in exchange for honoring previous agreements signed by the Palestinians.
    Nor is there a single word on EU proposals to rehabilitate the enclave and lift the embargo in return for demilitarization.
    Israel did not want this closure. Hamas seized control of the Gaza Strip in 2007 to turn it into a jihadist base, with Iranian assistance, as part of the struggle to eradicate the State of Israel.
    Israel was forced to impose the blockade to block the supply of missiles from Iran and to prevent further injury to its civilians.
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    יירוט כיפת ברזל לאחר ירי לעבר שדרות
    יירוט כיפת ברזל לאחר ירי לעבר שדרות
    The Iron Dome missile defense system intercepts a rocket fired from Gaza at the city of Sderot last week
    (Photo: Reuters)
    But Shakir does not let himself be distracted by the facts; after all, the outcome was decided in advance.
    Is all criticism leveled against Israel by "human rights organizations" a lie? Absolutely not. For decades, there has been a sharp debate within Israel itself over the Palestinian issue.
    Peace Now's reports on West Bank outposts are an important component of the public debate.
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    A settler and children stand next to a temporary structure in the West Bank outpost of Maoz Ester
    A settler and children stand next to a temporary structure in the West Bank outpost of Maoz Ester
    A settler and children stand next to a temporary structure in the West Bank outpost of Maoz Ester
    (Photo: Reuters)
    Israel is not exempt from criticism. But it also does not need hostile organizations such as HRW preaching morality to it.
    Criticism so biased and so hostile, compiled by someone who denies the very legitimacy of Israel, undermines the factual critique that should be and is voiced.
    It is important to remember that while Israel has controlled the Palestinians for nearly 54 years, primarily because of their refusal to accept a two-state solution, this does not justify the expansion of the outpost industry or the hooliganism of a handful of settlers. It does not justify Israel's inaction for too many years on working towards a diplomatic solution.
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    Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu talk at the 2016 funeral of Shimon Peres, the last time the two met
    Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu talk at the 2016 funeral of Shimon Peres, the last time the two met
    Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu talk at the 2016 funeral of Shimon Peres, the last time the two met
    (Photo: GPO)
    While such reports by hostile organizations are indeed a problem, the bigger problem is Israel inching towards a binational state, both with or without granting rights to the Palestinians.
    If those rights are granted, Israel will cease to be a Jewish state and without those rights it will indeed become an apartheid state.
    These two situations should be avoided at all costs.
    For no report, however hostile, should deter Israel from taking unilateral measures to ensure its continued existence as a Jewish and democratic state.
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