Liberal Jewish Groups Blast Israel After Human Rights Worker Denied Visa: 'Like North Korea'

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A view of activists with the U.S. rabbinical human rights group T'ruah, as seen on the movement's Facebook page.
A view of activists with the U.S. rabbinical human rights group T'ruah, as seen on the movement's Facebook page.Credit: Facebook

Liberal Jewish groups blasted Friday Israel's decision to refuse a work visa to a Human Rights Watch investigator, calling it undemocratic and unmoral.

Jennifer Gorovitz, a vice president of the New Israel Fund who was delayed at Ben Gurion Airport earlier this month and questioned about her work, said the "Netanyahu government has proven that the test for entering the country is a political one – either you agree with Netanyahu's ultra-right wing coalition or you're out. This may be legal, but it's morally unacceptable and anti-democratic."

Noting that it was not a blanket ban on HRW, Israel's Foreign Ministry later backtracked on its decision, saying that it would be willing to reexamine issuing a work visa for Omar Shakir, an American of Iraqi origin named as the NGO's Israel researcher, should the organization file an appeal.

"Human Rights Watch representatives can of course enter Israel with tourists' visas," a spokesman for Israel's Foreign Ministry said. "Regarding work visas, the issue will be reexamined by the relevant authorities if the original decision will be appealed."

T’ruah, a rabbinical human rights group, urged Israel to reverse the decision, calling HRW a "respected organization that has shown its commitment to rising above politics by criticizing the human rights record of both Israel and of the Palestinian leadership, including Hamas.

"With this decision, Israel follows the unfortunate example of North Korea, Uzbekistan, and Congo, rather than that of other democracies, which understand that the flourishing of a human rights sector is essential to democracy," the group said in a statement.

Daniel Sokatch, the CEO of the New Israel Fund, echoed the sentiment, saying that "Israel now finds itself in very poor company: Only a government with something to hide would work this hard to keep out human rights workers."

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