State Prosecutor: Palestinian Rights Groups Undermine Israel

Attorney tells court that Israeli organizations Hamoked and B'Tselem cause Israel damage, undermine its existence.

Yuval Yoaz
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Yuval Yoaz

An official statement submitted several days ago to the Jerusalem Magistrate's Court accused human rights organizations that represent Palestinians and residents of East Jerusalem in court of working against Israel's interests.

The statement called HaMoked: Center for the Defense of the Individual and B'Tselem - Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories - organizations "that undermine the existence" of the State of Israel, "besmirch" the state and its security forces, and "cause it damage in the world."

The Jerusalem court is hearing a suit brought by East Jerusalem resident Alaa Ali, who is claiming tens of thousands of shekels in damages from the state for alleged repeated arrests by the police and Shin Bet security service, unnecessary delays at checkpoints and abusive interrogations between 1996-1999. At one point in the proceedings, a Shin Bet official was questioned in camera, and attorney Yossi Wolfson of HaMoked, who is representing the plaintiff, filed a motion to release the transcript.

Attorney Nira Mashriki of the Tel Aviv prosecutor's office for civil matters wrote to the court in response: "The organization [HaMoked] does not deal with 'defending human rights' as it claims, but instead with defending the rights of Palestinians only. The organization's activity is one-sided and it works in the interest of a group of people whose elected leadership is currently in a harsh conflict with the State of Israel and is undermining its existence."

Mashriki, the state's representative in the proceedings, wrote that "the organization's self-presentation as 'a human rights organization' has no basis in reality and is designed to mislead. The organization is funded by outside entities whose interests differ from those of the State of Israel and sometimes contradict them."

Mashriki added that "the organization works in cooperation with the B'Tselem organization, which periodically issues pamphlets that besmirch the State of Israel and its security forces throughout the world, and cause damage."

HaMoked director Dalia Kerstein lodged a complaint with Attorney General Menachem Mazuz. "The prosecution document contains unbridled attacks on our organization, on B'Tselem and on the very notion of defending the human rights of Palestinians," she wrote. "Attacks by the state on human rights organizations active in it and on the sheer legitimacy of their existence pose a serious threat to democratic rule."

Kerstein demanded that the state submit a revised statement to the court.

The Justice Ministry stated Monday night that the matter appears to demand inquiry, but that an official position on the matter will have to await input from the lawyer who dealt with the case. Off the record, senior officials said the lawyer's statement was not approved by the attorney general and state prosecutor, and naturally does not reflect the establishment position on these organizations.

They said that Kerstein's letter had prompted an inquiry into who had approved the statement.