Trump Administration Accuses Human Rights Groups As Anti-Semitic
In a move that would certainly add fuel to the fire in the Middle East, The Trump administration is weighing a proposal to brand prominent human rights organizations as “anti-Semitic” and to discourage governments from supporting their work.
As proposed by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, the U.S. government seeks to take aim at Human Rights Watch (HRW), Amnesty International, Oxfam and possibly other rights groups that have criticized the Israeli government over its policies toward Palestinians, the sources said.
Last November Israel deported Omar Shakir, HRW’s representative director to Israel and Palestine for his alleged support for a boycott campaign, a move the advocacy group said placed the country in an “ugly club” of authoritarian regimes.
“If the Israelis can deport somebody documenting rights abuse without facing consequence, how can we ever stop rights abuse?” said Shakir. Israel argues its objection is to Shakir alone, not human rights campaigners generally.
One of the most infamous accusations against Israel was the shooting of unarmed civilians by military snipers in April 2018, which killed 189 Palestinians and injured more than 9,000 others.
In February 2019, United Nations investigators said that Israeli troops may have committed crimes against humanity in shooting unarmed civilians, including women, children, health workers and journalists who posed no threat during the mass protests at the border with Gaza.
A 25-page report stated that Israeli authorities had shown little willingness to prosecute anyone responsible.
“The Israeli security forces killed and maimed Palestinian demonstrators who did not pose an imminent threat of death or serious injury to others when they were shot, nor were they directly participating in hostilities,” the panel wrote. “Less lethal alternatives remained available and substantial defenses were in place, rendering the use of lethal force neither necessary nor proportionate, and therefore impermissible.”
The Gaza demonstrations by sought an end to the economic blockade that has been choking off Gaza for more than a decade. They also wanted refugees and their descendants to be allowed to reclaim property in Israel, seventy years after thousands of Palestinians were displaced—about 750,000 Palestinians (75% of the Palestinian population) were forced to leave their homes when Israel was erected as a State.
Some demonstrators attempted to storm the fence and to open crossings the Israelis had sealed. Others rolled burning tires toward the fence, pulled away razor wire, released flaming kites or threw rocks at Israeli security forces. But most protesters—including many of the people hit by Israeli gunfire—were hundreds of yards from the fence, including the prominent twenty-year-old volunteer medic Rouzan al-Najjar.
The ploy of amalgamating criticism of Israeli policies with anti-Semitism has been used by hawks for years to distract from the serious and ongoing human rights violations and war crimes that Israel has committed against Palestinian civilians for decades.
“The purpose of these smear tactics,” according to senior editor at The American Conservative Daniel Larison, “has always been to damage the critics themselves and to discourage others from speaking up.” Yet this has been part of the Trump pro-Israel agenda since he took office.
In December 2019, President Donald Trump recently signed an executive order that interprets Judaism as a nationality or race—i.e., it should not be seen exclusively as a religion—so that the federal government can threaten to withhold funds from schools criticizing Israel as fostering anti-Semitism in school activities, programs, curricula, and classrooms.
This Executive order provided pro-Israeli associations and lobbyists a green light to compel the states to pass laws that would require any companies and individuals working for the government to sign “contracts” or other affidavits declaring that they would never boycott Israeli companies. Such endeavors have been halted on numerous occasions by Congress and multiple courts as unconstitutional since they would violate the First Amendment. This would mean, as already mentioned, that any criticism of the Israeli government, such as its continual suppression of Christians exercising their natural right to worship, would be classified as anti-Semitic—Israeli law forbids Christians from marrying Jews.
Obviously, groups like the Sunni-Islamic militant organization HAMAS and the equally violent Palestinian Liberation Organization have both manipulated the destitute situation of the Palestinians—the majority being Muslim; a small percentage are Christian—to instigate hatred and violence against innocent Israeli citizens under the pretense that they are fighting for justice. Let us also not forget how such Islamists target and indoctrinate Palestinian children with jihadist tenets.
In any case, it would be unbecoming, as well as provocative, if the State Department made such a declaration, for the impression to be given is that Israel can do no wrong.
Mario Alexis Portella is a priest of the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore and Chancellor of the Archdiocese of Florence, Italy. He has a doctorate in canon law and civil law from the Pontifical Lateran University in Rome; he also holds a M. A. in Medieval History from Fordham University, as well as a B.A. in Government & Politics from St. John’s University. He is also author of Islam: Religion of Peace? – The Violation of Natural Rights and Western Cover-Up.