Human Rights Watch worker allowed to enter Israel after initial visa denial

(JTA) – An American employee of Human Rights Watch was permitted to enter Israel after previously being denied both a tourist and work visa due to the NGO’s alleged anti-Israel bias.

Omar Shakir, the new Israel and Palestine director for Human Rights Watch, a leading nongovernmental organization, entered Israel on Monday, four days after initially being denied a 10-day tourist visa.

He was allowed entry the same day the Knesset passed a law banning entry to foreigners who publicly call for boycotting the Jewish state or its settlements. Under the law, the Interior Ministry will be able to make exceptions to the law, and foreigners with residency permits will not be affected.

After Shakir had been denied a work visa on Feb. 21, an Israeli official said he could apply for a tourist visa, implying that it would be granted.

“Greetings from beautiful Yaffa/Jaffa! Happy to share that I landed safely today in Ben Gurion Airport. Upon arrival, an official from Israel’s Foreign Ministry awaited me with a sign, whisked me to a side room to print me a tourist visa & escorted me through customs without waiting in a line or asking me a question in less than 5 minutes,” Shakir said in a post Monday on Facebook.

The post continued: “While we continue to await reconsideration of our appeal of the work permit denial, I’m very excited for this 10-day visit, my first in this post (5+ months in), and the opportunity to engage Israeli and Palestinian officials, partners & those directly affected by human rights abuses on all sides.”

In explaining the earlier denial of a visa for Shakir, the Israeli government had said the group’s “public actions and reports have focused on politics in service of Palestinian propaganda while falsely raising the banner of ‘human rights.’”

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