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

Reforms to Israel’s Judiciary Must Be Carefully Calibrated

The central topic of debate in Israel now is the new coalition government’s proposed reforms of the nation’s judiciary and unwritten constitution. Peter Berkowitz agrees that reform is necessary, but that “the proper scope and pace of reform, however, are open to debate and must be carefully calibrated.”

In particular, Berkowitz argues,

to preserve political cohesiveness, substantial changes to the structure of the Israeli regime must earn support that extends beyond these partisan divisions.

In a deft analysis of the conservative spirit in Israel, bestselling author Micah Goodman warns in the Hebrew language newspaper Makor Rishon that unintended consequences flowing from the constitutional counterrevolution are likely to intensify political instability. When a center-left coalition returns to power, Goodman points out, it may well repeal through a simple majority vote the major changes Netanyahu’s right-wing coalition seeks to enact. Or it may use the legislature’s expanded powers, say, to ram through laws that impair the religious liberty of the ultra-Orthodox. Either way, in a torn nation, constitutional counterrevolution amplifies division.

Conservatives make a compelling case that balance must be restored to the separation of powers in Israel. A prudent concern for the need to harmonize Israel’s free, democratic, and Jewish character counsels deliberation in the pursuit of necessary constitutional reform.

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Read more at RealClearPolitics

More about: Israel & Zionism, Israeli Judicial Reform