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Trump State Department Plan to Declare Human Rights Groups 'Anti-Semitic' Slammed as 'Desperate,' 'Obscene'

The designation would target humanitarian organizations including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and Oxfam, sources said. 

Israeli forces demolish a building with bulldozers in Wadi al-Hummus neighborhood of Sur Baher region of East Jerusalem on July 22, 2019. (Photo: Issam Rimawi/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

The destruction of Palestinian homes, often to make way for exclusively Jewish settler colonization, has been condemned many times by the United Nations and the global community—with the notable exception of the United States. (Photo: Issam Rimawi/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

The Trump administration is considering designating several preeminent international human rights groups "anti-Semitic" in response to their criticism of Israeli crimes against the Palestinian people, according to a report published Wednesday. 

Politico reports the State Department could as early as this week declare groups including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and Oxfam to be anti-Semitic organizations and urge world governments to stop supporting them. 

A congressional aide told Politico that the move is backed by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who reportedly has presidential aspirations and is burnishing his Zionist credentials while serving in what is arguably the most pro-Israel administration ever. 

The proposal is highly controversial, however, and has raised eyebrows and ire among career State Department officials including attorneys who argue the potential designation poses serious free speech concerns. 

The declaration would likely take the form of a report from Elan Carr, the U.S. special envoy to monitor and combat anti-Semitism. It would likely cite the groups' criticism of Israeli policies and actions, as well as their actual or perceived support for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS), the peaceful global protest movement for Palestinian rights that is backed by prominent Jewish peace groups. None of the targeted organizations officially support BDS.

Carr's report is expected to cite posts, reports, and media statements by the rights groups criticizing Israel's ongoing illegal occupation of the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and the Golan Heights, as well as the exclusively Jewish settler colonization of Palestinian territory, which is also illegal under international law. Both the occupation and settlements have been the subject of dozens of United Nations resolutions, most of them condemning Israel's actions. 

Settlement building and expansion have also been called a form of ethnic cleansing and apartheid by international observers, icluding over 400 Jewish scholars and the former U.N. human rights official Richard Falk—who is also Jewish. 

It is unclear what, if any, impact the proposed anti-Semitic designation would have on the rights groups. None of the three named groups receive any funding from the U.S. government. All three categorically deny accusations of anti-Semitism. 

"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," Amnesty International USA iterim director Bob Goodfellow said in a statement. "We vigorously contest any allegation of anti-Semitism, and look forward to addressing the State Department's attacks in full."

Eric Goldstein, an official with HRW, said in a statement that his organization "fight[s] discrimination in all forms, including anti-Semitism."

"Criticizing government policy is not the same as attacking a specific group of people," added Goldstein. "For example, our critiques of U.S. government policy do not make us anti-American."

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