The Trump administration is considering labeling some of the most prominent humanitarian organizations in the world, including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and Oxfam, as “anti-Semitic,” according to two people familiar with the discussions.
A declaration by the State Department could come as early as this week, the individuals said, adding that it might encourage other governments not to support the groups’ work.
The proposal has prompted a sharp pushback from career officials in the department concerned that it would be a gift to authoritarian governments who have long sought to delegitimize human rights groups for their work exposing mass atrocities and crimes against humanity, according to the two people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss future policy decisions.
The organizations deploy scores of workers in dangerous hot spots, where they often face resistance from local governments.
The State Department declined to comment on a pending declaration, which was first reported by Politico.
Pro-Israel advocates have long complained of bias by groups such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, saying they focus too heavily on the treatment of Palestinians by the Israeli government.
The groups have a lengthy track record of spotlighting the mistreatment of individuals at the hands of governments elsewhere, including authoritarian regimes.
Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and Oxfam each strenuously denied any accusation of anti-Semitism.
“Any insinuation that Oxfam supports anti-Semitism is false, baseless, and offensive,” said Noah Gottschalk of Oxfam America. “We stand by our long history of work protecting the lives, human rights, and futures of all Israelis and Palestinians.”
Over the years, the groups, especially Human Rights Watch, have criticized the construction of Israeli settlements in West Bank, deeming them illegal under international law. Pompeo reversed years of U.S. policy by declaring that the United States does not consider the settlements a violation of international law.
If the State Department moves forward on the decision, it is likely to be celebrated by the government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, pro-Israel Republican donors and a wide swath of Christian Evangelicals, who say Israel is disproportionately targeted by human rights organizations.