The group received a letter from Israel's Interior Ministry denying the work permit "on the grounds that we were not a real human rights organization", said Shakir, a California native of Iraqi descent with a master's degree from Georgetown and a law degree from Stanford. And, in 2016, the government requested HRW assist a case in which victims of human rights abuses were Israelis.
The news emerged as Israel faced criticism from the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva over the 18-month jail sentence handed to an Israeli soldier who shot an incapacitated Palestinian assailant in the head.
"While the denial comes as a surprise (we have had regular access to Israel/West Bank, though not Gaza for three decades), it comes amid increasing pressure on Israeli and Palestinian rights groups and a wide-ranging assault on basic democratic values". Cuba, North Korea, Sudan, Uzbekistan, and Venezuela are among the few countries that have blocked access for Human Rights Watch staff members. "Our goal is to expose human rights abuses".
"It is disappointing that the Israeli government seems unable or unwilling to distinguish between justified criticisms of its actions and hostile political propaganda", he commented.
The Israeli occupation authorities have denied a work permit for the director of Human Rights Watch (HRW) in Israel and Palestinian territories, they said on Friday.
"Even though we do not agree with all of their assertions or conclusions, given the seriousness of their efforts, we support the importance of the work they do".
Israeli politicians have strongly criticized what it perceives to be left-wing NGOs operating in Israel that receive the majority of their funding from foreign governments, and has taken steps to limit their work.
The decision marks an ominous turn after almost three decades during which Human Rights Watch staff have had regular access without impediments to Israel and the West Bank.
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Last year, HRW issued a report, "Occupation Inc".
Last year, in addition to criticising violations by the Israeli Government, HRW reported on arbitrary detention of journalists and activists by the Palestinian Authority and Hamas.
The global watchdog has investigated human rights abuses in many crisis areas worldwide, and published a string of reports that were critical of Israeli policies. "Regarding work visas, the issue will be reexamined by the relevant authorities if the original decision will be appealed".
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Mr Shakir said the letter was a "shock" as HRW staff have been given regular access to Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories for nearly three decades and frequently engage with Israeli authorities, including the military, police and foreign ministry. Human Rights Watch has retained counsel and intends to challenge the decision before an Israeli district court. "Many governments don't like our well-researched findings but their response is not to stifle the messenger".
"The denial letter came as a shock, given that we have had regular access to Israel and the West Bank for almost three decades and regularly engage Israeli authorities", Shakir told the AP news agency.
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