Guardian fails to challenge the lies of HRW’s Omar Shakir

As is often the case when reporting on anti-Israel NGOs, the Guardian article reads more like a HRW press release than anything resembling professional journalism.

The Guardian is adept at amplifying, and failing to critically scrutinise, the unsubstantiated claims and accusations of anti-Israel NGOs, and today’s article about the Israeli Supreme Court decision on Human Right Watch’s regional director Omar Shakir – a long time BDS activist – follows this pattern.

First, as we predicted in a tweet before the article by Oliver Holmes (“Israel can deport Human Rights Watch official, court rules”, Nov. 5th) was published, the piece uncritically cites Shakir’s simply unhinged response to the court’s decision:

Shakir wrote on Twitter that if he was kicked out, Israel would join the ranks of Iran, North Korea and Egypt in blocking access to Human Rights Watch staff. “We won’t stop. And we won’t be the last,” he said.

The truth is that democracies all over the world reserve the right to deny entry to those seen as intent on harming the state. Moreover, there are in excess of 350 NGOs (such as HRW) operating freely in Israel, even those who continually deligitimise the state, support BDS and even reject Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state. 

The denial of a work visa to one employee of one of these NGOs – after careful consideration by the country’s internationally respected supreme court – wouldn’t even minimally change the democratic nature of Israel.  The human rights organisation Freedom House continually ranks Israel as the only truly free and democratic country in the region, and the suggestion that this status will change due merely to the supreme court’s decision on Shakir’s work visa is risible.

In a subsequent paragraph in the article, Holmes makes the following claim about the broader effort by Israel to fight BDS – a movement, let’s remember, whose leaders oppose the continued existence of a Jewish state.

In its most high-profile use, Israel blocked in August two US congresswomen, Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib, from a planned trip to Palestine and Jerusalem.

However, as the Guardian itself reported on Aug. 16th, the Israeli prime minister’s subsequently decided to let Tlaib visit the West Bank on humanitarian grounds – so she could visit her grandmother.  Though the congresswoman rejected the prime minister’s offer, the claim that Israel “blocked” her entry is highly misleading.

Holmes misleads again here:

HRW says the Shakir case is significant as it is the first time the government has used the anti-BDS legislation to try to deport someone legally working in the country.

Shakir’s two year work visa was granted in 2016, and expired in 2018.  In May 2018, the Israeli Ministry of Interior chose not to renew his work visa due to his support for BDS. So, since that time, in light of his appeal to the courts, Shakir has been allowed to remain in the country, and continue his work at HRW, without a valid work visa.

Holmes continues:

Shakir has argued he had not called for any form of boycott of Israel during his time at HRW.

If Holmes had done even a little research, he’d see that Shakir is clearly lying. An analysis of Shakir’s twitter activity from June 2018 to February 2019 by NGO Monitor proves that he’s expressed support for BDS on numerous occasions while working in Israel. NGOM shows that of the 970 tweets by Shakir during this period, “151 (16%) focus on BDS campaigns against and TripAdvisor”.  Countless other tweets promote other forms of delegitimisation.

Here’s one example of a pro-BDS tweet, from Nov. 2018, supporting Airbnb’s initital decision to boycott Jewish owned properties in the West Bank.

In this tweet from only a few days ago he even lends legitimacy to the idea of boycotting companies doing business located within pre-67 boundaries.

Finally, it’s telling – though not at all surprising – that the Guardian reporter not only failed to challenge the claims of Shakir and HRW, but didn’t cite even one quote from anyone critical of Shakir or supportive of the court’s decision.

As is often the case when reporting on anti-Israel NGOs, the Guardian article reads more like a HRW press release than anything resembling professional journalism.

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