The Washington Post Boycotts Facts about BDS and Human Rights Watch

Not for the first time, The Washington Post is soft-pedaling the anti-Israel boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement. A Nov. 5, 2019 dispatch, “Israel’s Supreme Court allows expulsion of human rights activist,” by Jerusalem bureau chief Steve Hendrix and correspondent Ruth Eglash omitted key facts about BDS. The report noted that Israel’s Supreme Court “ruled…that the government could expel the head of Human Rights Watch’s Israel and Palestine office”—a man named Omar Shakir—“after accusing him of supporting boycotts against the country.” The court upheld a May 2018 decision not to renew Shakir’s work visa due to his support for BDS. But the Post didn’t provide readers with the full story about Shakir, HRW or BDS.

The courts ruling, the Post tells readers, “marks an escalation in Israel’s determination to prevent critics from operating in the country under new laws that equate support for the boycotts, divestments and sanctions movement (BDS) with challenging Israel’s right to exist.”

However, as CAMERA has noted, BDS leaders and co-founders do, in fact, call for the end of the Jewish state. BDS co-founder Omar Barghouti, among others, has openly called for the end of the Jewish nation of Israel. Barghouti’s admission is in keeping with the movement’s true objectives.

BDS seeks to delegitimize the world’s sole Jewish state, singling it out for opprobrium. And its advocates include U.S.-designated terrorist groups like Hamas, whose charter calls for the genocide of Jews and Israel’s destruction. Indeed, Hamas has exhorted “we salute and support BDS.” High ranking officials of the Fatah movement that controls the Palestinian Authority (PA) have admitted that they have financial ties to the BDS movement—a violation of the Oslo Accords which created the Authority and which remains the basis for its legitimacy.

Indeed, BDS has extensive terror ties. A recently released report, “Terrorists in Suits,” detailed “evidence of more than 100 links between BDS and Hamas and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PLFP), both U.S.-designated terrorist organizations,” according to Ziva Dahl, a senior fellow at the Haym Salomon Center. In an Aug. 19, 2019 article in The American Spectator, Dahl observed that “more than 30 Hamas and PFLP operatives hold senior positions within BDS advocacy organizations. Known terrorists are invited to national conventions of BDS affiliates, radicalizing followers to view terror acts as legitimate resistance (“The Unmasking of BDS”).”

What is more, former U.S. government terror analysts have even highlighted the links between BDS and terrorist organizations in testimony before U.S. Congress—testimony that CAMERA has previously supplied to Post staff (see, for example “Ties Exist Between Hamas-linked Charities and BDS,” April 22, 2016).

The Post, however, omits this crucial information in its report on the court’s ruling. Instead, the newspaper uncritically quotes Shakir’s claim that “the [Israeli] government had mined social media posts from his days at Stanford University to portray him as a BDS activist” and “in his four years as an employee of Human Rights Watch… neither he nor the organization have advocated for boycotts against Israel or companies doing business here.” But this is a lie—as a little bit of research by the Post would have revealed.

As CAMERA and others have highlighted, HRW has a long history of anti-Israel bias. HRW’s own founder, the late Robert Bernstein, repudiated the group in a Oct. 19, 2009 New York Times op-ed that noted the nonprofit organization was guilty of “helping those who wish to turn Israel into a pariah state.” The organization has had employees who were caught making antisemitic comments, such as Matthew Myers, who once said “If you can’t laugh about the hair room at Auschwitz, get out.” Sarah Leah Whitson, HRW’s executive director of the Middle East and North Africa section, solicited funds in a May 2009 speech to an audience in Saudi Arabia on the very basis of the NGO’s work targeting Israel.

Given this animus toward Israel, it should come as no surprise that HRW has supported BDS efforts. As NGO Monitor has documented, HRW has called for banks, businesses, and countries—indeed, even sports leagues like FIFA—to boycott the Jewish state and its entities, either in part or in whole. In November 2017, the group released a statement celebrating the establishment of U.N. database of Israeli organizations which the agency recommended boycotting. On Nov. 21, 2016, Shakir’s predecessor, Sari Bashi, sent a letter to the U.N. praising BDS and suggesting Israeli companies that should be added to this database. And Kathleen Peratis, the co-chair of HRW’s Middle East North Africa Advisory Committee and emerita Board of Trustees member, authored a pro-BDS op-ed in January of that year.

HRW is, despite its denials, supportive of efforts to boycott Israel. And so is Shakir. As the writer Petra Marquardt-Bigman documented in a May 24, 2018 Ha’aretz op-ed, Shakir has long been a supporter of what BDS hopes to achieve—the end of the Jewish state. As Marquardt-Bigman noted, “Shakir has not just criticized Israel’s human rights record, but denounced Israel’s existence as a Jewish state within any borders.”

Indeed, Shakir’s campus activism, which the Post seeks to minimize, included his speaking at a 2010 event in which Jews were compared to Nazis. In subsequent years, Shakir has promoted antisemitic material on social media and, even as an HRW fellow, supported BDS activists like Barghouti and promoted the movement in a Dec. 23, 2015 tweet—more than a year after he was awarded the fellowship that preceded his employment. And in 2017 he reiterated his support for Rasmea Odeh, a BDS supporter and convicted terrorist who helped carry out a 1969 bombing of a Jerusalem supermarket (for details see “Anti-Israel Bias at Human Rights Watch,” Legal Insurrection, May 11, 2019).

According to a March 2019 analysis by NGO Monitor, Shakir’s Twitter activity from June 2018 to February 2019 alone shows his support for BDS. Of the 970 tweets by Shakir during this period, “151 (16%) focus on BDS campaigns against Booking.com and TripAdvisor.”

All of this information was available and easily accessible to the Post, which has shown itself willing, again and again, to minimize and obfuscate on BDS and its proponents. Indeed, it has become abundantly clear that—at a time of rising antisemitism—the newspaper is unwilling to provide accurate coverage of a movement that is intrinsically antisemitic and is “saluted” by genocidal terrorist groups.

Readers of The Washington Post should take note.