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Amman talk holds up mirror to Israeli atrocities

Israel actions part of ‘systematic assault on human rights advocacy’ — HRW regional director

By Saeb Rawashdeh - Jan 11,2020 - Last updated at Jan 11,2020

Omar Shakir

AMMAN — Israeli settlements constitute a war crime and deprive Palestinians of their land through systematic discrimination, said Director of Human Rights Watch (HRW) for Israel and Palestine Omar Shakir, who was deported from Israel last November over allegedly promoting boycotts on Israel.

“What happened to me is a part of a systematic assault on human rights advocacy,” he said.

The HRW director was speaking during a talk titled “Human Rights in Conflict” at the Columbia Global Centres in Amman on Wednesday.

HRW covers nearly 100 countries across the world, including every country in the Middle East, he noted, adding that it records abuses committed by government and non-governmental actors.

Shakir, who earned his MA in Arab Studies from Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Affairs, oversees the human rights situation in Israel and Palestine, where HRW has had a presence for three decades.

Regarding the current situation in Palestine, he said: “The occupier must provide for the public life of the occupied population, and this obligation increases in the case of prolonged occupation.”

Under occupation, there is no such thing as civil rights or equal rights, he stressed.

“Israel can’t justify a decades-old suspension of civil rights in the name of security,” Shakir said, adding that settlers governed by Israeli civil law enjoy full protection of their rights, which means they can protest freely.

Meanwhile, Israel has banned 411 Palestinian organisations and has detained ordinary activists and journalists, Shakir said.

“The two-state solution became such a slogan that we almost forget what the problem is… The peace process and the two-state solution are a farce. And it’s becoming worse,” he said.

“There are three choices for Israel these days: It can either grant full, equal rights to the Palestinians, it can ethnically cleanse what remains of the Palestinian population in the occupied territories — which I hope the world won’t tolerate — or it can establish apartheid. Israel has to be forced to grapple with that choice,” Shakir concluded.

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