"This decision and the spurious rationale should worry anyone concerned about Israel's commitment to basic democratic values", said Iain Levine, deputy executive director of program at Human Rights Watch.
"It is disappointing that the Israeli government seems unable or unwilling to distinguish between justified criticisms of its actions and hostile political propaganda", Levine said.
Emmanuel Nahshon, a spokesperson for the Israeli foreign ministry, denied that the group was banned and said Israeli and Palestinian employees would still be granted work permits, but questioned why visas should be given "to people whose only goal is to besmirch us and to attack us?" according to AFP. Last year, the Foreign Ministry asked Human Rights Watch to intervene in a case involving Israeli victims of human rights abuses. "With this decision, Israel is joining the list". The news came the same day the United Nations condemned Israel for issuing a "lenient" sentence given to an Israeli soldier found guilty of executing a suspected Palestinian attacker who was wounded.
Israel has long accused the group, as well as other human rights organisations, of focusing excessively and unfairly on it and failing to adequately recognise terrorist threats. The Israeli parliament passed a bill in July 2016 that made it a legal requirement to these organizations to state their donors in any reports and official publications in the country.
The characterization of Human Rights Watch promoting Palestinian propaganda does not square with the research and advocacy that the organization conducts to challenge violations of human rights and worldwide humanitarian law by all actors in the region, including the Palestinian Authority and the Hamas government in Gaza.
However, it has also written critically about the human rights records of the Palestinian Authority and of Hamas, leading to angry Palestinian criticism of the group.
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Human Rights Watch is an independent, international, nongovernmental organization that promotes respect for human rights and international law.
"HRW is a credible human rights organization and 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", Toner said. In 1997, a group it co-founded, the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, won the Nobel Peace Prize.
The Stanford-educated lawyer has also done work on human rights in Egypt, Pakistan and at Guantanamo Bay detention camp, according to his biography. The Israeli media often covers these reports.
The characterization of Human Rights Watch promoting Palestinian propaganda does not square with the research and advocacy that the organization conducts to challenge violations of human rights and global humanitarian law by all actors in the region, including the Palestinian Authority and the Hamas government in Gaza.
On Twitter, Shakir noted that while Israel was far from unique in contesting HRW's findings, it was nearly alone in blocking the organization from entering the country - only states such as North Korea, Sudan, Uzbekistan and Venezuela "where there is zero appetite for human rights engagement" had done the same to date. By contrast, Human Rights Watch maintains staff who work legally in its registered offices in some 24 countries around the world, including Lebanon, Jordan, and Tunisia. The HRW representative could enter Israel on a tourist visa and the work visa application may be reconsidered if an appeal is lodged.