Prosecutor Rejects Criticism of Human Rights Groups

The state prosecution is distancing itself from comments from a state attorney this week that two human rights organizations are serving interests that undermine the existence of the State of Israel.

"The comments of the attorney reflect neither the prosecution's position nor the position of the state, and were not authorized ahead of time and certainly not retroactively," State Prosecutor Eran Shendar said in a letter yesterday.

Shendar's letter came in the wake of a Haaretz report published on Tuesday that quoted attorney Nira Mashriki of the Tel Aviv prosecutor's office as saying in an official statement that HaMoked: Center for the Defense of the Individual and B'Tselem - Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories work for interests that "besmirch" the state and its security forces, and "cause it damage in the world."

The report caused a storm in the Justice Ministry and generated protests from HaMoked and B'Tselem. In addition, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel and MK Zahava Gal-On (Meretz-Yachad) asked Shendar and the attorney general to bring Mashriki before a disciplinary hearing. As of press time, the prosecution has decided not to do so, but has begun an urgent inquiry into the matter.

"The state's position has been and continues to be that HaMoked: Center for the Defense of the Individual and the B'Tselem organization are human rights organizations," Shendar wrote to ACRI legal adviser Dan Yakir.

Shendar's assistant, attorney Elad Rosental, said the prosecution planned to issue a revised version of the statement Mashriki had written and was submitted to the Jerusalem Magistrate's Court in reference to a lawsuit brought by an East Jerusalem resident against the state. He said the "inappropriate" comments would be excised.