Im Tirtzu calls for criminal investigation of Machsom Watch

Zionist extra-parliamentary group asks A-G Weinstein to launch probe into activists who allegedly entered Palestinian village of Awarta in violation of IDF order.

Border Police officers in the West Bank town Awarta 311 (R) (photo credit: REUTERS/Abed Omar Qusini)
Border Police officers in the West Bank town Awarta 311 (R)
(photo credit: REUTERS/Abed Omar Qusini)
Im Tirtzu, a self-described Zionist extra-parliamentary group, has asked Attorney- General Yehuda Weinstein to open a criminal investigation against activists from Machsom Watch who allegedly entered the Palestinian village of Awarta last month in violation of an IDF order.
The letter was sent to the Justice Ministry last week and officials said that it would be reviewed and handled according to protocol, and a decision on whether to open a criminal investigation would be made at a later date.
Last year, Im Tirtzu released a report accusing the New Israel Fund of funding NGOs like Machsom Watch, which it said penned much of the material critical of Israel in the United Nation’s Goldstone Report.
Machsom Watch, a group of Israeli women who monitor treatment of Palestinians at IDF checkpoints, came under fire last week after a picture was published showing senior activist Raya Yaron hugging the mother of one of the men who allegedly murdered five members of the Fogel family in Itamar on March 11. The picture was taken about a week before the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) revealed the identities of the suspects.
In his letter to Weinstein, Im Tirtzu chairman Ronen Shoval wrote that a group of Machsom Watch activists entered Awarta, home to the two alleged murders, in violation of an IDF order. The military had imposed a curfew on the village near Nablus.
Shoval cited a blog post found on the Machsom Watch website in which several activists describe a visit to Awarta in mid-April.
“We stood next to the store when three military jeeps arrived. The soldiers told us by loudspeaker to close the store and to leave Awarta. They showed us a document which said that a curfew was in place from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.,” the blog post read.
The post described the empty streets and how the group left the village but then decided to return. “We looked back and saw that the military vehicles had left and we decided to take a chance and go back to Awarta. We drove again through the streets of the paralyzed village that was under curfew. From a distance we saw a house surrounded by military and we did not go near it.”
According to Shoval, the blog post verifies a violation of the law, warranting a criminal investigation.
“Ignoring this will make the orders of the IDF and its officers who are there to protect Israeli lives worthless, and will encourage those organizations which believe they are above the law,” Shoval said in the letter.
In response to Im Tirtzu, Yaron said on Sunday that Machsom Watch had visited the village just as many other human rights organizations had.
“I was there like other human rights organizations on April 11, a week before the names of the suspects were published, and there were no soldiers in the area, and therefore the claim that we disrupted the soldiers’ work is baseless,” she said.
Ron Friedman contributed to this report.