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US Considers Labeling Some Human Rights NGOs 'Anti-Semitic'


JERUSALEM, Israel – The Trump administration is weighing whether to designate several prominent human rights groups as anti-Semitic, Politico reported on Wednesday.

The groups in question include Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and Oxfam.

Politico cited two sources who said Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is pushing for the declaration, which could come as early as this week, and is bound to spark uproar and legal action.

The declaration would probably take the form of a report from the office of Elan Carr, the US special envoy to monitor and combat anti-Semitism, Politico reported.

The declaration would target the groups’ alleged or perceived support of the Boycott, Divestments, and Sanctions movement against Israel, Politico reports. It would declare that it is US policy to not support these groups.

It is not immediately clear what impact the declaration would have on these groups because none of them receive US government funding, but some of their affiliates overseas do.

Not all of the groups officially support the BDS movement or take an official stance on it. However, all have criticized Israel’s settlement activity and policies towards the Palestinians. Some pro-Israel groups have claimed the groups’ actions constitute support for the BDS movement and are anti-Semitic.

Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations Gilad Erdan condemned Amnesty International over a report that called on websites like Airbnb to boycott Israeli listings in West Bank settlement communities.

“Amnesty International, that hypocritical organization that speaks in the name of human rights, is acting to promote a boycott of Israelis as part of a campaign of anti-Semitic delegitimization,” said Erdan, who was then Israel’s Minister of Strategic Affairs.

Last year, Israel also expelled Omar Shakir, a Human Rights Watch local director for allegedly supporting BDS. Both Shakir and Human Rights Watch denied the accusations.

All three organizations reject claims that they are anti-Semitic.

“We vigorously contest any allegation of anti-Semitism, and look forward to addressing the State Department’s attacks in full,” Bob Goodfellow, Amnesty International USA’s interim executive director, told Politico.

Human Rights Watch official Eric Goldstein also denied the allegations.

“We fight discrimination in all forms, including anti-Semitism,” Goldstein said in a statement. “Criticizing government policy is not the same as attacking a specific group of people. For example, our critiques of U.S. government policy do not make us anti-American.”

Noah Gottschalk, Oxfam America’s global policy head, said his organization does not support BDS.

“Oxfam does not support BDS or call for the boycott of Israel or any other country,” Gottschalk said. “Oxfam and our Israeli and Palestinian partners have worked on the ground for decades to promote human rights and provide lifesaving support for Israeli and Palestinian communities. We stand by our long history of work protecting the lives, human rights, and futures of all Israelis and Palestinians.”

Some veteran State Department employees oppose the proposal to designate these groups as anti-Semitic, including lawyers who say the move raises free speech concerns, has a weak legal basis, and could open the administration up to lawsuits.

There was no immediate comment from the Israeli Embassy or the State Department.

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