Israeli NGOs Are Entrenching the Occupation

One may have expected Yisrael Beiteinu and parts of the Likud to offer human rights groups state funding instead of threatening their existence.

The Knesset's decision to probe the human rights' groups funding sources, a move motivated by the right's desire to clamp down on the organizations' activity, should be denounced on several accounts.

However, the right-wing parties should be interested in continuing these organizations' activity, for the simple reason that they - albeit unintentionally - are advancing those parties' long-term interest: entrenching the occupation.

check - Baz Ratner - January 11 2011
Baz Ratner

In the past decade organizations such as B'Tselem, Machsom Watch and even Breaking the Silence have entered the vacuum in the government's control over the army and in the senior command's control over the field units. The center of gravity of conducting the warfare in the midst of the Palestinian population has been diverted, as is characteristic of this kind of policing-warfare, from the high command to the lower field command, which frequently exercises unbridled force on the population.

The army has difficulty effectively controlling the units, and so the task taken up by the human rights' organizations.

It suffices to read military advocate general Avichai Mendelblit's statements about those organizations in an interview with Haaretz in 2009: "The organizations are a channel for passing on information about very important things, to make the IDF's activity normative...I strive to reach the truth and they are really helping us with this."

In other the words, the organizations whose activity the Knesset wants to restrict are part of the army's control system over its forces. Machsom Watch supervises the roadblocks and B'Tselem documents, thus monitoring soldiers' aberrant conduct while on duty. As for Breaking the Silence, it has recently proved its documentation system is better than the army's, whose first reaction to accusations of illegal conduct in Operation Cast Lead was sweeping denial.

The army has good reason to cooperate and exchange information with some of the organizations, as the MAG conceded.

Even if the leftist groups' intention is to ensure upholding Palestinian rights, though, the unintentional result of their activity is preserving the occupation. Moderating and restraining the army's activity gives it a more human and legal facade. Reducing the pressure of international organizations, alongside moderating the Palestinian population's resistance potential, enable the army to continue to maintain this control model over a prolonged period of time.

No wonder Machsom Watch activists have commented critically that the group's activity is "improving the roadblocks" rather than helping to remove them. Rather than acting against the IDF's presence in the midst of dense Palestinian population, B'Tselem tries to make this presence more moral.

In this spirit, Breaking the Silence opposes disobedience and does not act against the occupation. Its documentation helps the army clean its ranks, thus reducing the "moral price of dominating a civilian population," as the organization puts it.

So one may have expected Yisrael Beiteinu and parts of the Likud to offer human rights groups state funding instead of threatening their existence. In the absence of these groups, the basis of Israel's domination - whose legitimacy is unraveling - of the Palestinian population will be further undermined, contrary to the Israeli right's agenda.

The writer is a professor at the Open University and is author of the book "Who Governs the Military," published by Magnes Press.