Editorial

Israel Goes After Yet Another Human Rights NGO

The education minister just added the Association of Civil Rights in Israel to B’Tselem and Breaking the Silence, organizations that have been the focus of government persecution for some time

Right-wing protesters demonstrate against Breaking the Silence in Haifa in July 2016.
Rami Shllush

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government is continuing its political persecution of civil society organizations and is targeting more organizations by the day. On Tuesday Education Minister Naftali Bennett added the Association of Civil Rights in Israel to B’Tselem and Breaking the Silence, organizations that have been the focus of the government’s persecution for some time.

Following the request of the bereaved parents’ forum “Choosing Life,” Bennett canceled the Education Ministry’s participation in a teachers’ conference on workers’ rights, held together with ACRI. The conference was intended to prepare the teachers for school activities marking International Human Rights Day.

Bennett also instructed his ministry’s director general, Shmuel Abuav, to examine the continued cooperation with the association, which has been working with the Education Ministry for some 40 years. The parents’ forum claimed that ACRI is a radical group that acts against Israel and even referred to it as a “terror collaborator.”

It’s hard to pass judgment on the bereaved parents for their request, but Bennett’s agreement to it is totally unfounded. Instead of responding with empathy for the parents’ pain, while protecting the state’s major, most veteran civil rights organization, Bennett seized the opportunity to expand the state’s political persecution. The minister is exploiting the pain of the bereaved parents, who have the public’s empathy and support, to curtail the association’s activity, while at the same time weakening any objection to his move – because anyone who objects could be seen as offending the bereaved parents’ feelings.

This is no longer just about restricting the moves of organizations that “wash Israel’s dirty laundry” abroad, but an attack on any organization associated with protecting universal values – human rights, not just Jewish rights.

The Association for Civil Rights in Israel deals with all human rights. Every person, even prisoners who have committed serious offenses, is endowed with these rights, regardless of religion, race and gender, and without discrimination on the basis of political bent. ACRI does not represent terrorists in criminal proceedings, but acts to protect prisoners’ rights, as well as the rights of those whose residency status and citizenship have been denied. According to Bennett’s twisted logic, the Education Ministry could proceed further to revoke its ties with the Public Defender’s Office, or with any lawyer who protects the rights of a murderer, rapist or thief.

It is not surprising that ACRI learned of the ministry’s withdrawal from the conference from a press release by the virulently anti-leftist Im Tirtzu movement. The Netanyahu government has been serving for some time now as the executioner of this dangerous movement’s dark worldview and dubious means of persecution. The attorney general must instruct Bennett to retreat from his improper intervention.

The above article is Haaretz’s lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.