Rightist MKs continued to persecute human rights groups

Israeli organizations which contributed to the Goldstone Report on the deadly last Israeli invasion to Gaza criticized on Sunday a proposal by MK Israel Hasson (Kadima) to revoke their right to use National Service volunteers.

Cast Lead operation (photo: Al Ittihad)

They claimed a deliberate witch hunt is being held against them. Hasson discovered that among those organizations that receive National Service volunteers are the Association for Civil Rights Israel (ACRI), Amnesty Israel, The Public Committee against Torture in Israel and Physicians for Human Rights Israel. Hasson’s initiative comes on the heels of similar attempts to impinge on the activities of Israeli organizations that provided information to the Goldstone Commission, while it was compiling its report on the Israeli army activities in Gaza during Operation Cast Lead.

Ever since the fascist Im Tirtzu movement published a list of such organizations, focusing in particular on support they received from the New Israel Fund, a number of MKs have put forward proposals aimed at cutting their funding.

“I feel persecuted,” says Dr. Yishai Menuchin, director of the Public Committee against Torture. “The rightist MKs continued to persecute human rights groups. They want to prevent us from being heard.”

Hasson is proposing to set new standards in the allocation of National Service volunteers which will limit the groups he believes were active partners in the drafting of the Goldstone Report. The report, written by a committee headed by Jewish Judge Richard Goldstone, accused Israel and Hamas of committing war crimes during Operation Cast Lead. Goldstone later retracted some of his statements, but the widely publicized report has caused considerable damage to the State of Israel.

Menuchin, whose organization employs one National Service volunteer, added: “Hasson and his friends try to hurt us by setting up commissions of inquiries by harming funding, media access and now the possibility of getting the help of National Service volunteers.” He claims the step will hurt the National Service’s ability to help all sectors of the Israeli society and render it the “national-rightist service.”

Rachel Benziman, CEO of Amnesty Israel is also enraged. “We shall act against the government and against the bill using all democratic means,” she said. Benziman rejects Hasson’s claim that the groups provided the Goldstone committee with unfounded claims. “Every action we reported was checked. We never issue unchecked information and it’s our duty to cooperate with human rights organization”. Menuchin, on his part, claimed that the testimonies his group provided were based on extensive correspondence with the IDF and the Justice Ministry. “No one there claimed our information was fabricated. The Military Advocate General himself said the human rights groups’ reports were very helpful with the inquiries.”

Earlier this year, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman approached Science and Technology Minister Daniel Hershkowitz, both members of extreme-right parties, who is in charge of National Service, asking him to revoke the National Service volunteer posts within human rights groups.