The Case of Omar Shakir Shows That Israel Needs to Improve Its Defenses against Lawfare

Sept. 24 2019

Today, Israel’s Supreme Court hears the case of Omar Shakir, an American citizen who serves as the “Israel/Palestine director” for Human Rights Watch (HRW), a fanatical anti-Israel organization. The Israeli government wishes to deny Shakir’s request to renew his work visa on the basis of a law that forbids granting visas to those who promote boycotts of the Jewish state, and further claims that Shakir violated the terms of his expiring visa by doing so. To Gerald Steinberg, the case generates the difficulties Jerusalem has had at parrying the lawfare campaigns of HRW and similar groups:

Politically, this case is about HRW and the movement to boycott, divest from, and sanction Israel (BDS), and whether, after numerous defeats, the Israeli government has a viable counterstrategy. Had the various officials and ministries involved had a coherent strategy in place in 2016, Shakir would never have received a work visa in the first place, and the court sessions, media focus, and accompanying human-rights theater would have been avoided.

Shakir and HRW’s leaders have already waged a very successful campaign in the international media [around his visa application]. They project an invented image of a politically neutral organization promoting the moral principles of human rights, and overcoming intense opposition by the “far-right” Israeli government. Shakir has published opinion pieces in the mainstream media, including the Washington Post, in addition to numerous interviews in the New York Times [and elsewhere].

For [HRW], the case is a win-win: if the judges overrule the lower court, this will be presented as a great victory for HRW over the hated and “anti-democratic Israeli government.” And if Shakir loses and is deported, HRW will declare a great victory in showing the world how “Israel oppresses brave human-rights defenders.” Therefore, in the confrontation between HRW, as an NGO superpower working under a façade of human rights, and Israel, which seeks to counter and defeat multiple campaigns of demonization and delegitimization, this case should be recognized as a policy failure. Instead, a broader and more strategic approach is necessary, though it may be beyond the government’s capability.

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Read more at BESA Center

More about: BDS, Human Rights Watch, Lawfare

Salman Rushdie and the Western Apologists for Those Who Wish Him Dead

Aug. 17 2022

Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the founder and supreme leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran, issued a fatwa (religious ruling) in 1989 calling for believers to murder the novelist Salman Rushdie due to the content of his novel, The Satanic Verses. Over the years, two of the book’s translators have been stabbed—one fatally—and numerous others have been injured or killed in attempts to follow the ayatollah’s writ. Last week, an American Shiite Muslim came closer than his many predecessors to killing Rushdie, stabbing him multiple times and leaving him in critical condition. Graeme Wood comments on those intellectuals in the West who have exuded sympathy for the stabbers:

In 1989, the reaction to the fatwa was split three ways: some supported it; some opposed it; and some opposed it, to be sure, but still wanted everyone to know how bad Rushdie and his novel were. This last faction, Team To Be Sure, took the West to task for elevating this troublesome man and his insulting book, whose devilry could have been averted had others been more attuned to the sensibilities of the offended.

The fumes are still rising off of this last group. The former president Jimmy Carter was, at the time of the original fatwa, the most prominent American to suggest that the crime of murder should be balanced against Rushdie’s crime of blasphemy. The ayatollah’s death sentence “caused writers and public officials in Western nations to become almost exclusively preoccupied with the author’s rights,” Carter wrote in an op-ed for the New York Times. Well, yes. Carter did not only say that many Muslims were offended and wished violence on Rushdie; that was simply a matter of fact, reported frequently in the news pages. He took to the op-ed page to add his view that these fanatics had a point. “While Rushdie’s First Amendment freedoms are important,” he wrote, “we have tended to promote him and his book with little acknowledgment that it is a direct insult to those millions of Moslems whose sacred beliefs have been violated.” Never mind that millions of Muslims take no offense at all, and are insulted by the implication that they should.

Over the past two decades, our culture has been Carterized. We have conceded moral authority to howling mobs, and the louder the howls, the more we have agreed that the howls were worth heeding. The novelist Hanif Kureishi has said that “nobody would have the [courage]” to write The Satanic Verses today. More precisely, nobody would publish it, because sensitivity readers would notice the theological delicacy of the book’s title and plot. The ayatollahs have trained them well, and social-media disasters of recent years have reinforced the lesson: don’t publish books that get you criticized, either by semiliterate fanatics on the other side of the world or by semiliterate fanatics on this one.

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Read more at Atlantic

More about: Ayatollah Khomeini, Freedom of Speech, Iran, Islamism, Jimmy Carter