acri - Emil Salman - April 16 2010
Association for Civil Rights in Israel chair Executive Director Hagai Elad. Photo by Emil Salman
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A new initiative could deprive Israeli human rights organizations that cooperated with the Goldstone Commission from benefiting from National Service civilian volunteers.

Behind the initiative is MK Israel Hasson (Kadima ), who recently asked Prof. Daniel Hershkowitz (Habayit Hayehudi ), the minister responsible for the National Service administration, to formulate new criteria for determining which organizations in the country are eligible to receive National Service volunteers, as part of new legislation that will govern the activities of the National Service.

After conducting an initial investigation, Hershkowitz discovered that among those organizations that receive National Service volunteers are the Association for Civil Rights Israel (ACRI ), Amnesty Israel, The Public Committee Against Torture in Israel and Physicians for Human Rights Israel. Hasson's initiative comes on the heels of similar attempts to impinge on the activities of Israeli organizations that provided information to the Goldstone Commission, while it was compiling its report on IDF activities in Gaza during Operation Cast Lead.

Ever since the Im Tirtzu movement published a list of such organizations, focusing in particular on support they received from the New Israel Fund, a number of MKs have put forward proposals aimed at cutting their funding.

In his letter to Hershkowitz, Hasson accused the organizations of slandering the IDF and its officers and called for new criteria to be set to prevent such organizations from benefiting from National Service volunteers in the future. He noted that the groups "urged the UN inquiry committee headed by Judge Goldstone to accuse Israel of anti-humanitarian activities and severe violations of human rights during Operation Cast Lead."

"The organizations have made statements based on mere assumptions regarding the motives of the IDF actions against Hamas," Hasson wrote. "They claimed the operation was a punitive one, which used destruction as a means of deterrence and punishment, not as a means for attaining any real military objectives. As a result, it raises serious suspicions about the legality of the entire operation. This was said despite the fact that these organizations did not have the information on which to base such statements."

Hasson also specifically accused Physicians for Human Rights of meeting with Goldstone in Switzerland in 2009 and of playing an active role in composing a letter to the foreign minister of the then-president state of the European Union, Sweden, "urging him to bring Israel to trial for war crimes and grave violations of human rights."

The Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) was not surprised by the new initiative. According to Hagai El-Ad, Executive Director, "Hasson's initiative joins in with Yisrael Beitenu's Parliamentary Inquiry Committees and other recent legislative initiatives, in a similar spirit. Several MKs have chosen the persecution of human rights NGOs as a goal – just because these organizations fulfill their societal roles – to criticize government policy when it harms human rights." He added that "we will fight these anti-democratic initiatives while continuing our activities promoting equality, social justice, an end to the occupation, human rights and democracy."