Israeli Rights Group May Lose National Service Slot for Urging Soldiers Not to Shoot Unarmed Gazans

Deputy attorney general voices opposition to such a move

Yotam Berger
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B’Tselem director Hagai El-Ad, September 1, 2017.
B’Tselem director Hagai El-Ad, September 1, 2017.Credit: Tomer Appelbaum
Yotam Berger

Sar-Shalom Jerbi, director of the National Civil Service Administration, has summoned the director of B’Tselem to a meeting about rescinding the organization’s national service position, even though the position is not filled and Deputy Attorney General Dina Silber has stated that this should not be done, and even though the administration’s own legal adviser has yet to rule on the matter and has previously rejected similar requests.

The letter sent by Jerbi to B’Tselem director Hagai El-Ad says: “B’Tselem is promoting a campaign calling upon IDF soldiers to refuse an order in the face of a march from Gaza toward the West Bank.” The letter further stated that the administration is “obligated to examine complaints it receives about illegal actions about organizations approved by it and to use its authority to cancel the approval of an organization that does not adhere to the rules of the law.” Thus, Jerbi stated in the letter, El-Ad was being “invited” to a meeting.

The letter was sent on the instructions of Uri Ariel, the minister with authority over the administration. In 2014, the administration sought to rescind the national service position with B’Tselem, but Deputy Attorney General Dina Silber rejected the decision, and said recognition of an organization could only be revoked if that organization “denies Israel’s existence as a Jewish and democratic state, supports terror or armed struggle against Israel or incites to violence, terrorism or racism.”

Meanwhile, the administration’s own legal adviser, attorney Yoav Arbel, recently stated that the administration has no authority to revoke these positions unless the police determine that crimes were committed. No police investigation is being conducted against B’Tselem. Last year, in response to a request from right-wing activist Shammai Glick to revoke Amnesty International’s national service position, Arbel wrote, “It is not within the administration’s authority to determine whether this or that organization violated the penal law. This is what the investigative and enforcement authorities are for.”