This group exposes rights abuses but Israel say it operates against the state

Dina Rickman@dinarickman
Thursday 14 August 2014 13:00
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Israeli citizens are reportedly no longer allowed to do national service with B'tselem, an NGO that works to expose human rights abuses in the occupied territories, because it operates "against the state".

The Times of Israel reports that national service head Sar-Shalom Jerby has sent B'tselem director Hagai El-Ad a letter saying the decision was made “in light of the organisation’s activities against the State of Israel and IDF soldiers in Israel and abroad".

Jerby said the decision came "during a period in which the State of Israel is coping with the threat of thousands of rockets and missiles on millions of its citizens, and is conducting an extensive operation to remove the threat over all the residents of Israel."

National service is an alternative for people who cannot or do not want to serve in the Israeli army, which is conscripted. Volunteers are aged between 18-21 and work for between one-two years.

The news follows B'tselem releasing a statement on 12 August saying that the IDF's silence on civilians casualties "implies that such extensive harm to civilians is seen as legitimate".

The massive bombardments of civilian locations were the rule rather than the exception in the last operation, routinely killing dozens of people a day. Whoever authorised the strikes must have known that they would result in many civilian fatalities, yet the bombardments continued day after day and even intensified. Authorising attacks from the air, sea and artillery fire at heavily populated civilian areas and specific homes, constitutes wilfully ignoring the inevitable killing of civilians – men, women and children – who did not take part on in the hostilities. But Hamas is to blame – right?

Yesterday, the group lost a high court battle to overturn a ban on a radio broadcast announcing some of the names of children killed during the Israeli offensive in the Gaza Strip.

According to B'tselem's initial figures, at least 1,767 Palestinians have died during Operation Protective Edge, including 431 children, 200 women and 85 people age 60 or over. Two Israeli civilians, one foreign national and 64 Israeli soldiers have also died.

B'tselem said in a statement the move was a "dangerous attack by a government authority on a human rights organisation."

“The announcement by Sar-Shalom Jerbi, which we doubt was authoritative, reflects a negative exploitation of his administrative job for the purpose of improper political persecution. This is a dangerous attack by a government authority on a human rights organisation.

“Mr. Jerbi goes too far and calls the dissemination of information about human-rights violations during wartime ‘treason,” and increases the flames of intolerance that have poisoned the public atmosphere in Israel. By doing so, Mr. Jerbi joins the dubious club of those inciting to harm anyone who expresses opinions that could be interpreted as criticism.”

More: Why is a site exposing human rights abuses in Gaza under attack?
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