Israel has disqualified its foremost human rights group,B’Tselem as a volunteer option for Israeli youths who opt for civilian national service over the required three year military service in the Israeli Defence Force, officials have claimed, citing the group’s criticism of the Gaza offensive.
The government’s National-Civic Service Authority (NCSA) mirroring the anger of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s rightist coalition at Israeli activismsees human rights groups like B´Tselem as stoking pro-Palestinian sympathy.
The director of the body responsible for non-military options for Israelis who don’t want to serve in the IDF, Sar-Shalom Jerbi, said the organisation would stop providing staff for B’Tselem after the group argued that some military strikes in Gaza, where 1,945 Palestinians, mostly civilians, have died in the month-old war, were illegal.
The issue of B´Tselem speaking out against Israeli aggression came to a head recently when a request to read out the names of Palestinian children killed by Israeli forces was rejected by the state broadcaster. An appeal to the High Court of Justice was rejected in favour of the state broadcaster.
A High Court spokesperson said, “Reading the names of the children who died, even though one’s heart goes out to them, has a political goal and is not for informative purposes only.”
B’Tselem director Haggai Elad, described the ban as politically motivated and undemocratic. “We act out of a deep commitment to the values of the society we are part of,” Elad said, and called ongovernment minister Uri Orbach, the government minister in charge of the Authority for National-Civic Service, to reverse the decision.
Orbach, a leading member of the ultranationalist Jewish Home party in Netanyahu’s government, was unmoved. Referring to Hamas-led Gaza guerrillas who have killed 64 Israeli soldiers and three civilians inside the Jewish state said, “Israel is in the midst of a difficult military and diplomatic campaign against terrorists.”
B’Tselem director Haggai Elad responded, “Until this day Arabs in Jerusalem are afraid of gang violence against them on the streets of this city. This has never happened before, and still remains the situation in Jerusalem.”
Palestine authorities claim that there have been over 10,000 Palestinians wounded and nearly 2,000 civilians killed by Israeli rockets.