Israeli rights group loses national service slot


(JTA) — Israeli human rights group B’Tselem is no longer eligible for Israeli national service volunteer placements because it has acted “against the state and its soldiers.”

In a letter to B’Tselem, the head of the national service program, which coordinates placements for young Israelis doing national civilian service as an alternative to military service,  said he objected to the group’s actions during this summer’s Gaza war, Haaretz reported.

B’Tselem’s full name is B’Tselem: The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories. B’Tselem is Hebrew for “in the image,” a reference to the Bible saying that humans were created in God’s image. During the war it sought unsuccessfully to broadcast the names of Palestinian children killed as a result of Israeli missiles.

The national civilian service program places volunteers in organizations across the political spectrum. B’Tselem has received one volunteer each year through the program since 2012, according to Haaretz.

Earlier this year, national service head Sar-Shalom Jerbi said national civilian service would be available “only to bodies that do not subvert the existence of the state as a Jewish and democratic state.”

In his letter to B’Tselem, Jerbi added that “there is a clear line separating a legitimate political opinion in the Israeli political discourse and the dissemination and publication of lies and slander in Israel and worldwide …. Therefore I see no possibility of continuing to approve your organization as a participating body in the national civilian service, which receives assistance from the State of Israel.”

According to the Jerusalem Post, Jerbi’s letter also criticized B’Tselem for refusing to call Hamas a terrorist organization.

B’Tselem told Haaretz Jerbi’s move “increases the flames of intolerance” and that he “joins the dubious club of those inciting to harm anyone who expresses opinions that could be interpreted as criticism.”

The Association for Civil Rights in Israel sent a letter to the national service chief warning that if he did not reverse his decision, the group would challenge it before the High Court of Justice.

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