Israeli Minister Blasts 'Biased and Obsessive' EU Over Calls to Investigate Police Brutality

European Union calls on Israel to investigate violence against Arab activist, urges Jerusalem to revoke deportation of local Human Rights Watch representative

Jafar Farahת Mossawa Advocacy Center, at his home May 21, 2018
rami shllush

The European Union condemned the Israeli police's crackdown on Israeli Arab protesters in Haifa after they demonstrated against the high death toll at the border with Gaza on the day of the dedication of the U.S. embassy in Jerusalem. The demand prompted the anger of Israel's police minister.

As many as 21 activists were detained by police following the march in Haifa, including the head of the Mossawa Advocacy Center Jafar Farah, who was allegedly injured after being arrested by police.

In the statement, the EU also said "it will also be important, as supported by the Israeli government to conduct a swift investigation into circumstances surrounding events last week in Haifa which appeared to result in serious injury of Jafar Farah, Director of the NGO Mossawa, the Advocacy Centre for Arab Citizens in Israel".

To really understand Israel and the Middle East - subscribe to Haaretz

Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan responded to the EU's demand, saying that "Israel, as the only democracy in the Middle East, does not need moralistic warning calls from a biased and obsessive body like the EU."

Erdan also called out what he called the "hypocritical campaign of persecution against Israel and the attempt to stain its good name. I suggest the EU not get involved in Israel's internal matters."

In the meantime, the police have questioned under cation the police officer involved in the arrest.

"The European Union continues to stand for an open and conducive environment for civil society, within Europe, in Israel, the occupied Palestinian territory and around the world," the statement said.

The EU called on Israel to reverse its decision to revoke the work visa of Mr Omar Shakir, the local director of Human Rights Watch who was accused of anti-Israel activities and involvement in the BDS movement.

In a mildly worded statement issued on Tuesday, the EU says it "expects the Israeli authorities to reverse their decision, as otherwise Israel would join a very short list of countries which have barred entry to, or expelled, Human Rights Watch staff".

Omar Shakir, a U.S. citizen who previously worked for the New York-based rights group in Egypt and Syria, was given two weeks to leave the country when he was notified of the revocation of his visa on May 7. Fifteen Israeli human rights organizations immediately condemned the move at the time.

Criticizing the decision of Israel's Interior Ministry, Human Rights Watch quoted a representative of the organization as saying that “Compiling dossiers on and deporting human rights defenders is a page out of the Russian or Egyptian security services’ playbook.”

Interior Minister Arye Dery said the decision was based on a recommendation from the Strategic Affairs Ministry, which had collected information about Omar Shakir.

In March 2017, Israel passed an amendment to its Entry into Israel law, empowering the authorities to refuse entrance to those they claim to be activists in the BDS movement. Shakir, however, would be the first one to be deported rather than being denied entry to the country on the backdrop of the law.