The witch hunt against leftist and civil-rights organizations in Israel is picking up speed just as Operation Protective Edge winds down. This week the director of the National Service Administration, Sar-Shalom Jerbi, informed the director of B’Tselem, Haggai Elad, that he was disqualifying B’Tselem as a receiving organization for civilian national service volunteers. Gili Cohen reported yesterday on the Haaretz website that in explaining his decision, Jerbi said the organization, whose full name is B’Tselem, the Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories, acts against the state and the Israel Defense Forces.
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“I feel obligated to exercise my authority and discontinue state assistance to an organization that acts against the state and its soldiers, who sacrifice their lives with supreme heroism in order to ensure the welfare and security of all Israeli citizens,” Jerbi wrote in his letter to B’Tselem.
We cannot remain silent in the face of these preposterous statements by a government official. Jerbi is not authorized to determine who is acting for the good of the state and who is acting against it, and judging by his remarks it would also seem that he does not understand what democracy is.
B’Tselem investigates, documents and makes public violations of human rights in Israel’s occupied territories. Its activity is extremely important during ordinary times, and much more so in times of war. B’Tselem performed this function during Operation Protective Edge, when its field researchers investigated and recorded events in the Gaza Strip. Thanks to the organization, Israel received vital information, as it has in the past, that the IDF made use of.
B’Tselem does not act against the state or its army, on the contrary: It tries to maintain its moral image, therefore fulfilling an important mission. The role of the organization is especially prominent now, when the world is demanding the investigation of suspected war crimes in the Gaza Strip. Israel can also use B’Tselem’s investigations to prove that the state investigates itself.
Jerbi’s decision is scandalous, and Pensioner Affairs Minister Uri Orbach (Habayit Hayehudi), who oversees the National Service Administration, would do well do reject it. B’Tselem is a badge of honor for the State of Israel, and the national service volunteers who work for it are contributing far more to Israel than the volunteers of Efrat, the anti-abortion association, for example, whose service Jerbi has not disqualified.