Israeli human rights organizations that try to help Palestinians have never enjoyed widespread public support. Organizations such as Machsom Watch, Physicians for Human Rights, Yesh Din, Ta'ayush, Hamoked - The Center for the Defense of the Individual, and B'Tselem are viewed by the general public as slanderers and traitors to Israel's interests, or as disrupters of the work of Israel Defense Forces soldiers who protect the state against terrorism. The understanding that these organizations save the state's honor, and that decrying them undermines and weakens Israeli democracy, has not penetrated the public. And above all, it seems, it has not penetrated the consciousness of the establishment.
In a document submitted to the court in response to a damages suit filed by Hamoked on behalf of a Palestinian from East Jerusalem, attorney Nira Mashraki of the Tel Aviv District Attorney's Office penned lies that attest to a basic lack of understanding of democracy. Attorney Mashraki claimed that Hamoked, as well as B'Tselem, which works with it, "besmirch" the state of Israel and its security forces throughout the world, cause damage, and merely pretend to be human rights organizations, while in effect abetting the state's enemies.
The question of what attorney Mashraki thinks about human rights organizations that help Palestinians would not be of interest if it did not reflect the typical approach toward such organizations. Even though the attorney general said that he would investigate how such a response came to be written on the state's behalf, it seems that Mashraki is not a lone wolf, but rather reflects the prevailing approach.
It is possible to draw a beeline between the approach expressed by attorney Mashraki and the approach of the IDF high command, as expressed at the chief of staff's meeting this week with the women of Machsom Watch. At the meeting, which Dan Halutz initiated, he expressed open dissatisfaction with the daily contact between the organization's members and IDF soldiers, and said that in his opinion, civilians should not interfere with the army's work. Even though the IDF cooperates with the organization in an effort to solve the problems of day-to-day life created by the checkpoints, the prevailing opinion is that Machsom Watch is a nuisance.
Machsom Watch is a unique women's human rights organization comprised of hundreds of women. For the past five years, it has maintained shifts at 40 checkpoints throughout the West Bank in order to document what happens there, and try to help solve the individual problems of Palestinians who have nowhere else to turn. The assumption is that the presence of these mature women, some of whom are the mothers or grandmothers of soldiers, prevents excessive abuse and slightly eases the suffering and humiliation that is the lot of thousands.
This organization - like other human rights organizations, each of which focuses on a different consequence of the occupation - is the least that Israeli citizens can do to try to prevent injustices stemming from the occupation.
Life under the anomaly of an occupation regime produces strange solutions, such as the presence of women alongside soldiers in an effort to ensure a more humane routine. The human rights organizations are the state's pride, not a threat that must be liquidated or minimized.