Becca Wertman
Managing Editor / Canada Liaison at NGO Monitor

Shakir is no human rights defender

Source: NGO Monitor

On November 5, Israel’s Supreme Court rejected the demand that Israel renew a work visa for Human Right Watch’s (HRW) local director, Omar Shakir, ending a nearly two-year long legal ordeal. The decision confirmed that Shakir has been a consistent and active promoter of BDS (boycott, divestment, and sanction) campaigns against Israel for years – grounds for denying entry into the country.

Whether or not you agree with the merits of Israel’s BDS law, ample evidence shows that Shakir overtly promotes boycotts and sanctions against Israel. This includes his efforts to have FIFA sanction the Israel Football Association, supporting US legislation to sanction Israel by restricting military aid, and his involvement with HRW’s ongoing BDS campaign targeting Airbnb and Booking.com.

Without missing a beat, HRW and Shakir’s loyal supporters have cried out in the defense of their beloved “human rights defender” who is being “deported.” However, putting his obsession with Israel aside, Shakir’s human rights priorities appear to be highly questionable, at best.

On August 23, 2019, Israeli 17-year-old Rina Shnerb was brutally murdered when a terrorist hurled an explosive device at her and her family, injuring her father and brother, while they were hiking. A Palestinian by the name of Samer Arbid, who worked in a financial role at the NGO Union of Agricultural Work Committees (UAWC) and had previously served in a similar capacity at Addameer, was later arrested for his leading role in making, planting, and setting off the explosive device. It would seem impossible for a true human rights organization or activist to ignore this horrific incident of violence, terror, and the exploitation of human rights organizations. Yet this is exactly what Shakir did.

Despite the fact that Shakir always seems to make time for attacking Israel on his Twitter account, this self-proclaimed human rights defender apparently failed to craft even a few characters to condemn this clear violation of human rights. There were no calls for an investigation into the incident, no condemnation of the overt violation of the rights of the child, and no cries denouncing the abhorrent abuse of the universal human right to life.

However, when it comes to defending the terrorist and affiliates of the terrorist organization he belonged to, Shakir’s words flow. On September 29, reports that Arbid had been tortured during his interrogation became public and without missing a beat, Shakir jumped to his defence. Shakir has tweeted eight times about the alleged torture of the arrested terrorist. He also was quick to defend Arbid’s former NGO employer, Addameer, when the Israeli military searched their offices.

For instance, on September 25, Shakir wrote that he visited the offices of the “Palestinian prisoner rights group @Addameer, which Israeli army raided last week & confiscated laptops & other equipment. Part of Israeli assault on rights defenders- Palestinians face worse of it. We stand with them- attack on them is attack on human rights movement.” Shakir failed to acknowledge that numerous Addameer lawyers, staff, and board members have ties to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) – a Canadian, American, European, and Israeli designated terrorist organization.

Shakir continued to tweet in support of Arbid, pointedly a “father of two daughters and one son,” and decrying Israeli “impunity.”

However not a single post mentions the reason for Arbid’s arrest, namely his apparent leading role in murdering a teenager and there are no tweets calling for ending “impunity” for Palestinian terrorism. Shakir, eager to generate sympathy for a terrorist and his family, completely ignored the death of an Israeli child and the fact that she was murdered in front of her father and brother.

Israel’s Supreme Court judges have rejected Shakir’s work visa renewal and he will therefore no longer serve as HRW’s local representative. Regardless of this, the public deserves to know the truth about the so-called “human rights defender.” At best, Shakir has abused his platform to promote discriminatory BDS campaigns aimed at delegitimizing the Jewish State. At worst, Shakir “stands with” an NGO linked to an internationally designated terrorist organization, instead of the innocent children murdered by the terrorists.

About the Author
Becca Wertman is managing editor and responsible for the Canada portfolio at NGO Monitor, a Jerusalem-based research institute. Born in Vancouver, Canada, Becca earned her BA in international relations from the University of Southern California and her MA in political science from Columbia University. Her articles have appeared in The Hill Times, The Province, The Georgia Straight, The Post Millennial, The Jerusalem Post, Canadian Jewish News, Algemeiner, and The Tower.
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