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Media reports say the US government is seeking to discredit the work of Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and Oxfam, organizations dedicated to enabling people worldwide to live in freedom and dignity, Human Rights Watch said today. The US State Department, attempting to silence watchdogs that challenge an ally’s human rights record, is considering a false accusation of anti-Semitism against them.

Human Rights Watch opposes discrimination in all forms around the world, including anti-Semitism, systemic racism, Islamophobia, sexism, and homophobia. The US State Department and US embassies regularly rely on Human Rights Watch’s reporting. Human Rights Watch applies the same standards in all countries it covers. It is independent and non-partisan and does not accept funding from any government.

“When Human Rights Watch criticizes a government’s policy, we do so to protect the rights of people in that country, especially minority groups and the vulnerable,” said Eric Goldstein, acting Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “The Trump administration is conflating criticism of a government’s human rights violations with criticism of a people. No one has ever suggested that our work in the United States or in China is a slur against people there. By making such claims, the administration tarnishes fact-based human rights research and advocacy in the name of protecting one ally with a deeply troublesome record.”

The US is not the first government to attack human rights groups for working to hold states accountable. Authoritarian governments regularly bully dissidents and rights defenders to silence criticism and evade responsibility for their illegal acts.

This baseless attack comes from an administration with a shameful record of empowering white supremacists and using anti-Semitic messages, Human Rights Watch said.

When government officials use anti-Semitism to divide people for political gain, then falsely accuse critics of the exact same thing, it harms all of us – not least, Jewish people.

Human Rights Watch stands with our Israeli and Palestinian colleague organizations in exposing human rights abuses by the Israeli and Palestinian authorities, as well as by non-state armed groups. The Israeli government, the Palestinian Authority, and Hamas officials have long sought to deflect criticism of their rights records by attacking the messenger, which endangers the brave local activists who speak up for the rights of all people in Israel and Palestine. Governments serve their people by protecting human rights, not by trying to silence those who expose their misdeeds, Human Rights Watch said.

“The US State Department shouldn’t use disingenuous accusations of anti-Semitism in an attempt to muzzle people who criticize an ally,” Goldstein said. “Curtailing legitimate criticism of the Israeli government will only harm rights protections for people in Israel and Palestine. Human Rights Watch will not be silenced. We will keep holding to account any leader who exploits hatred in an attempt to cover up misconduct.”

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