Legislation Against Human Rights Groups Is Political Persecution

The new legislative initiative which would ban human rights organizations from employing national service volunteers ignores their democratic mission.

Kadima MK Israel Hasson's new initiative under which human rights organizations would be denied the right to employ national service volunteers is pure political persecution.

The proposal is based almost entirely on the claim that these organizations "besmirched the Israel Defense Forces, its officers and its soldiers."

According to Hasson, certain organizations - first and foremost, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, the local chapters of Physicians for Human Rights and Amnesty, and the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel - sought to persuade Judge Richard Goldstone to investigate whether Israel committed war crimes during Operation Cast Lead in Gaza in early 2009, and even urged the UN inquiry committee he headed "to accuse Israel of anti-humanitarian activity and of grave violations of human rights."

Hasson is ignoring the nature of the mission that human rights organizations have taken upon themselves - namely, a constant battle to uphold the ethical, humanist values without which a democratic society cannot exist, or, at the very least, could not maintain its democratic image.

Demanding an investigation of the army is neither treason nor slander, as Hasson and his supporters are trying to paint it. Indeed, given that both the army and the political decision-makers shunned a courageous and thorough probe of what happened during Cast Lead - an operation in which hundreds of Palestinians were killed - their application to Goldstone was essential.

Moreover, it's clear that their involvement with the Goldstone Report is nothing but a transparent excuse on which Hasson sought to hang his desire to embitter the lives of these organizations and intensify the delegitimization campaign against them. And he is not alone. He is supported by more than just a handful of Knesset members, most of them from the extreme right.

But Hasson, the bill's sponsor, is not a delusional extremist; he belongs to a party that defines itself as Israel's main centrist party. Yet so far, Kadima chairwoman and opposition leader Tzipi Livni has not responded to Hasson's proposal. Her silence is particularly worrying because she has until now been viewed as a rock standing firm against the recent wave of anti-democratic legislation.

If Livni truly sees herself and her party as an alternative to the present government, she can no longer remain silent in the face of this campaign of silencing and intimidation.