Gov't axes volunteer program for Israeli rights NGOs cited in Gaza report

Gal-On: despicable trick to silence voices of those who don't align with government.

B'tselem logo (photo credit: FACEBOOK)
B'tselem logo
(photo credit: FACEBOOK)
Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel (Bayit Yehudi), also in charge of the Authority for National- Civic Service, has rescinded slots at organizations he says worked against the IDF in the UN, including B’Tselem and the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI).
Ariel’s Tuesday directive was sent to Sar-Shalom Djerbi, director-general of the Authority for National-Civic Service, just one day after the publication of the UN Human Rights Council report on Operation Protective Edge. The report drew sharp criticism in the Knesset on Monday from Bayit Yehudi head Naftali Bennett, who pointed out that the UN had used testimony from left-wing Israeli organizations like B’Tselem – The Israel Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories and Breaking the Silence to compile the report.
“The whole essence of national service is service for the State of Israel and its citizens,” said Ariel on Tuesday. “I will not allow under any circumstances a delusional reality in which Israel finances slots for young people who will act against its soldiers.”
B’Tselem and ACRI were cited 72 and four times respectively throughout the report, and both organizations currently have national service volunteer slots.
“We will not fund organizations like these no matter what legal acrobatics were done until now to make this bug kosher,” concluded Ariel.
Last August, Djerbi tried to revoke B’Tselem’s national service slots on the grounds that it works against the state and its soldiers, also pointing out that it refuses to call Hamas a terrorist organization, even though Israel, the US and other countries classify it as such.
While Djerbi’s decision from 2014 didn’t stick, the hope is that with the minister’s directive the decision will hold.
Of course, not everyone is hoping for that outcome.
Meretz leader Zehava Gal-On, one of the founders of B’Tselem and its first director- general, spoke out against the decision on Tuesday.
“Minister Ariel’s decision about human rights organizations, whose only sin was to be cited in the UN Human Rights Council report, is a crude political punishment and we will make sure to cancel it,” she said.
Gal-On went on to say that this is a “despicable trick designed to intimidate and silence the voices that don’t align with the government’s position. This is a dangerous opening and cannot be dismissed as trivial.”
She concluded by saying that “this conduct is characteristic of shadowy regimes.”