New Israeli Organization Aims to Be First Right-wing Palestinian Rights Watchdog

Ex-PMO staffer Yoaz Hendel founds BlueWhite Human Rights, aims to monitor rights violation at West Bank checkpoints, collate testimonies of apparent IDF war crimes, provide medical assistance to Palestinians and African asylum-seekers.

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Barak Ravid
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ברק רביד - צרובה
Barak Ravid

Yoaz Hendel, chairman of the Institute for Zionist Studies, has set up the first rightist human rights organization of its kind. The organization intends to monitor the violation of Palestinians’ human rights at West Bank checkpoints, collate testimonies of apparent war crimes by IDF soldiers and provide medical assistance to Palestinians and African asylum-seekers.

Hendel, former head of the National Information Directorate in the Prime Minister’s Office, quit his post a year ago.

The new organization, dubbed BlueWhite Human Rights, started operating under the IZS about a month ago as the rightist version of leftwing watchdog groups such as Machsom Watch, Breaking the Silence and Physicians for Human Rights.

Hendel announced the organization’s establishment in his Facebook page this week. Unlike the leftist organizations, the new group will act in cooperation with the IDF authorities to make sure the complaints are investigated and acted on, he wrote.

The new organization currently consists of some 20 volunteers, most of them Hendel’s friends and acquaintances including reservists of the 13th squadron, activists of the Likud’s Liberal Forum and students from Bar-Ilan and Ariel universities.

Many of the activists wear knitted kippas, with their political views ranging from Habayit Hayehudi to Yesh Atid.

In recent weeks the new organization’s activists have stationed themselves at the Qalandiyah roadblock north of Jerusalem, where, alongside the women volunteers of Machsom Watch, they monitored the passage of Palestinians.

The IZS website says that one of the challenges facing Israel as a Jewish and democratic state is the need to safeguard human rights. The new organization’s vision is based on the principles of the Declaration of Independence and Jewish tradition that says “God created man in His own image” and man must therefore preserve his own and the other’s image.

Hendel wrote in his Facebook page the new organization represents a liberal national viewpoint. He says the organization will focus on improving the authorities’ protection of human rights by means of constructive criticism. It will not take advantage of the human rights issue to advance political goals, he said.

The organization’s founding charter says: “In recent years, two erroneous axioms have been internalized: The first is the exclusive correlation between Zionism and the political right. The second is the exclusive correlation between human rights and the political left. The IZS believes that human rights are a democratic and moral imperative that overrides all agendas in the political spectrum from the right through the left just as the values and goals of Zionism belong to and instruct all of us left and right alike.”

The Blue and White Human Rights Association is an umbrella for three entities, the charter says.

The Blue and White Crossings Organization is to be operated by volunteers who will monitor IDF soldiers and the strict enforcement of moral principles at the checkpoints. The volunteers will record the activities at the checkpoints to prevent friction between the soldiers and Palestinians passing through the checkpoints and report to the appropriate bodies any case in which IDF soldiers acted illegally.

A second entity, Morality in Warfare (“purity of arms”), is described as an organization whose “activists will collate data and incidents of improper action and regularly transmit this information to the qualified investigative IDF agencies (e.g. the Military Advocate General) prevent or reduce the deliberate perpetuation of anti- Israel generalizations in the foreign media and universities.”

“The Ethical Medical Access Organization will be established in the belief that it is Israel’s duty to ensure the right to healthcare on an equal basis to Palestinian and other Arab individuals who reside in Israel and who have state health insurance, to Bedouins living in unrecognized villages in the Negev, and to people with no civil status, such as refugees and asylum seekers.”

Hendel met IDF Spokesman Brig. Gen. Yoav Mordechai and senior Military Prosecution officials and secured their cooperation in passing information and handling complaints the organization lodges with the IDF.

The organization does not intend to release the complaints to the media but to pass them to the Central Command, Military Prosecution or IDF spokesman to have them examined and investigated.

The organization intends to publish an annual report on the number of complaints received, their character and the way the IDF handled them.

The group’s founding charter says it wants to serve “as an alternative to the organizations whose aims and practices confuse the cause of advocacy for human rights with political action to vilify, demean and delegitimize the State of Israel before the world.”

Hendel, founder of the organization, left the Prime Minister’s Office in February, 2012 in the wake of the Natan Eshel affair in which Benjamin Netanyahu criticized him and other senior staff for reporting Eshel, his bureau chief, to the Attorney General for sexually harassing a female employee.

The Qalandiyah checkpoint.Credit: Emil Salman
Yoaz Hendel.Credit: Moti Milrod

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