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US considers declaring leading NGOs, such as Amnesty International and Oxfam, 'anti-Semitic'

Amnesty International could be labelled as anti-semitic by the Trump administration [LightRocket/Getty]

Date of publication: 22 October, 2020

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The US State Department is considering declaring certain high-profile human rights group as anti-Semitic.
Washington is considering declaring certain prominent international NGOs, such as Amnesty International and Oxfam, as anti-Semitic, two people familiar with the issue told Politico.

The State Department is weighing up whether to advise other governments not to support the so-called 'anti-semitic' NGOs. 

The Trump administration could make the declaration as soon as this week, Politico reported.

A former State Department employee confirmed the basics of the declaration to Politico, saying it could be released shortly.

The report is expected to come from the office of Elan Carr, the US special envoy to monitor and combat anti-Semitism.

The declaration would state that it is not US policy to support groups such as Oxfam, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, and encourage other governments to cut their support - including financial.

As evidence, the report allegedly cites the groups perceived support for the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement, which calls for various boycotts against Israel until it meets its obligations under international law.

The declaration is also expected to cite reports and press releases from various groups criticising Israeli settlements.

None of the human rights groups have officially supported the BDS movement, but all have to some extent criticised Israel's treatment of the Palestinians.

The exact effect such a declaration would have is unclear but it could jeopardise some funding the groups receive. 

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who is reportedly eyeing a future presidential run, is pushing for the move, Politico added. 

The declaration would appeal to Trump's evangelical Christian base, which staunchly backs Israel.

But such a report could lead to a considerable backlash, with targeted NGOs possibly pursuing litigation to push back against the move.

Some employees at the US State Department are opposed to the declaration, Politico reported, with department lawyers warning of retaliatory lawsuits.

The named civil society groups all deny any allegations of anti-Semitism.

When contacted by Politico, officials from Amnesty, Oxfam and Human Rights Watch had not yet heard about the potential declaration.

Amnesty International USA's interim executive director Bob Goodfellow told Politico any allegations of anti-Semitism were "baseless".

"AIUSA is deeply committed to fighting anti-Semitism and all forms of hate worldwide, and will continue to protect people wherever justice, freedom, truth, and dignity are denied," he said

Oxfam America's global policy lead Noah Gottschalk also denied allegations of anti-Semitism as "false" and "offensive".

"Oxfam does not support BDS or call for the boycott of Israel or any other country," Gottschalk said. 

Human Rights Watch official Eric Goldstein said in a statement: "We fight discrimination in all forms, including anti-Semitism."

"Criticising government policy is not the same as attacking a specific group of people. For example, our critiques of US government policy do not make us anti-American."

Israel deported Human Right's Watch Palestine and Israel director Omar Shakir last year. 

Shakir had lost a lengthy legal battle to prevent the Israeli government expelling him, after he was accused of supporting the BDS campaign. 

Other countries to have barred Human Rights Watch researchers include North Korea, Syria and Iran.

Shakir was expelled under a controversial 2017 law, which allows for the deportation of foreigners who support a boycott of Israel, although HRW denies that the American NGO worker backs the BDS campaign.

Agencies contributed to this report

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