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Volunteers protest National Service bill
Kadima MK's bid to revoke right of HR groups which contributed to Goldstone Report to use National Service volunteers, prompts harsh criticism
Israeli organizations which contributed to the Goldstone Report criticized a proposal by MK Israel Hasson (Kadima) to revoke their right to use National Service volunteers on Sunday. Some claimed a deliberate witch hunt is being held against them.
"I feel persecuted," says Dr. Yishai Menuchin, director of the Public Committee Against Torture. "The rightist MKs continue 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 organizations."
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, who is in charge of National Service, asking him to revoke the National Service volunteer posts within controversial human rights groups.
This prompted criticism among the groups and a statement on behalf of Hershkowitz noted the minister does not share Lieberman's view.
A letter protesting Hasson's bill was sent to Hershkowitz with signatures of various National Service volunteers. Kadima Chairwoman Tzipi Livni refused to address the bill.
Attila Somfalvi contributed to this report
Kadima MK asks to stop National Service in rights NGOs
By LAHAV HARKOV
Hasson says gov't gives funding to NGOs despite testimony to Goldstone Commission; Public Committee Against Torture: MK is "anti-democratic."
MK Israel Hasson (Kadima) asked over the weekend that Science and Technology Minister Daniel Hershkowitz (Habayit Hayehudi) put an end to National Service volunteers working in human rights organizations.
“After researching the topic, I found that a number of organizations supported through government allocations [of National Service volunteers] acted to convince the investigative team led by Richard Goldstone to accuse Israel of anti-humanitarian activity and violations of human rights during Operation Cast Lead,” Hasson wrote to Hershkowitz, whose ministry is responsible for National and Civilian Service.
Some of the organizations advocate the use of universal jurisdiction to prosecute IDF officers and Israeli leaders abroad, and testified before the Goldstone Commission, the Kadima lawmaker said.
One such organization is Physicians For Human Rights – Israel, which “met with Goldstone in Switzerland to present testimony to the committee” and asked the European Union “to bring Israel to court for war crimes and severe human rights violations,” Hasson said.
The Public Committee Against Torture in Israel “launched a legal warfare campaign against Israel in 2009,” and therefore, should not be a place for National and Civilian Service, he added. Other organizations mentioned were the Association for Civil Rights in Israel and Amnesty International.
Hasson had previously asked Hershkowitz about the phenomenon in an official parliamentary question, and received an answer in writing, and not in the plenum, on March 30, that Hasson said was “irrelevant to the topic.”
Hershkowitz also said he was planning to propose a bill that would list criteria for organizations to receive state funding for participation in the National and Civilian Service program.
Among those criteria is that an organization cannot “reject the existence of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state, or support armed struggle or terror against the state, incite to racism, violence or terror.”
In this week’s letter, Hasson said he would consider supporting such a bill, but added: “I am of the opinion that these criteria are not enough to prevent the activities of the organizations mentioned, which harm current and former Israeli officers and undermine Israel’s legitimacy in defending its citizens and fighting terror.”
Ishai Menuchin, the Public Committee Against Torture’s director-general, called Hasson’s letter “anti-democratic.”
“Hasson thinks that the only good place to do National Service is a place that shares his opinions,” Menuchin said. “In a democracy, there should be a variety of opinions and places to serve.”
Menuchin said that out of approximately 13,000 National and Civilian Service volunteers, only 13 serve in the organizations Hasson seeks to block.
“This is not a good enough reason to try to stop us. The majority can’t impose anything it wants on the minority.
“Maybe National Service volunteers should be taken out of right-wing organizations that incite racism and support ‘price tag’ attacks [against Palestinians],” Menuchin said. “Why doesn’t anyone talk about that?”