Geneva - Israel's suppressive practices against international human rights and civil society organizations critical of the country’s longstanding violations are deeply concerning, says the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor.
Since 2014, this policy has persisted, particularly including bans on activities, deportations and bars on entry into the occupied Palestinian territories, seeking only to shut down criticism of the country’s human rights record as well as to burden human rights work.
The latest incident was that of ordering deportation of the Human Rights Watch Israel and Palestine director Omar Shaker, allowing him only two weeks to leave the country after revoking his residency permit last Tuesday.
The decision was taken by the Israeli Ministry of Interior after it accused the HRW senior official of involvement in BDS activities, accusing the Organization of “engaging in politics in the service of Palestinian propaganda.”
In its response to the decision, Human Rights Watch said that it “has for nearly three decades had regular access without impediment to Israel and the West Bank – though not Gaza, to which Israel has refused access to Human Rights Watch’s researchers and other senior officials since 2008 except for a single visit in 2016.”
The decision was part of a systematic policy which Israel has maintained against human rights groups and activists for a long time. Another example is blocking the entry of Leclerc Patrice, the mayor of the Paris suburb of Gennevilliers in April, accusing him of support of the (BDS) Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement.
In January, the Israeli authorities prevented the entry of representatives of 20 foreign NGOs into the Palestinian Territories, claiming that they supported the international boycott movement and the Palestinians.
Israel also refused to grant entry permits for seven European MPs and activists who planned to visit the Palestinian Territories and Israel in November for a period of four days to review the human rights situation and meet prisoners. They have been also accused of supporting the campaign to boycott Israel.
The Israeli authorities reject dozens of requests for entry into the Palestinian Territories every year from INGO members. In 2015, the Israeli authorities deported 320 activists who tried to enter the Palestinian Territories and denied permits to 400 activists in 2016.
Euro-Med Monitor’s International Secretary and American citizen Pamela Bailey was also deported in August 2016. She was held at the Ben Gurion Airport for 12 hours before she was informed that she is banned from visiting Israel and the Palestinian Territories for 10 years.
In 2011, the Israeli authorities passed the Boycott Law, which allows Israeli citizens to file lawsuits and seek compensation against anyone who publicly advocates for the boycott of Israel, including the boycott of settlement products.
The Israeli Knesset introduced another amendment to the law in March 2017. The new amendment gives the Israeli authorities the right to refuse entry to activists who publicly boycott Israel or commit to participating in activities that call for doing so.
The Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor calls on the Israeli authorities to promptly end its policy of harassment against human rights activists. Rather than cracking down on critics, Israel is urged to improve its human rights record, particularly in the Occupied Territories.