Ban on B’Tselem national service lifted
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Ban on B’Tselem national service lifted

Deputy attorney general says there is no evidence against human rights group

Marissa Newman is The Times of Israel political correspondent.

B'Tselem director Hagai El-Ad. (Screen capture: YouTube)
B'Tselem director Hagai El-Ad. (Screen capture: YouTube)

Deputy Attorney General Dina Zilber on Tuesday overturned a ban blacklisting left-wing NGO B’Tselem from receiving national service volunteers.

Sar-Shalom Jerby, head of the National Service Administration, said last month that the decision was reached “in light of the organization’s activities against the State of Israel and IDF soldiers in Israel and abroad.”

But, according to Zilber, Jerby failed to provide sufficient evidence to buttress the claim.

The deputy attorney general insisted that while the national service head has the authority to deem certain radical organizations inappropriate, leveling allegations of this weight must be backed by convincing proof, according to Israel Radio.

However, Zilber also emphasized in her statement that her decision does not reflect any personal identification with B’Tselem, or agreement with its professional objective.

Deputy Attorney General Dina Zilber (photo credit: Yossi Zamir/Flash 90)
Deputy Attorney General Dina Zilber (photo credit: Yossi Zamir/Flash 90)

The human rights group hailed the Tuesday decision.

“It’s good the deputy attorney general pointed out the obvious to the head of the National Service Administration: a man in a public position should not abuse his authority for political gain,” it said in a statement. “The well-publicized attempt to harm an independent, civilian organization due to his personal dislike, through the distortion of the facts, did not withstand the test of the law.”

On August 14, in the height of the 50-day conflict, Jerby wrote that he had revoked the group’s status, due to B’Tselem’s political activities.

He said that the decision was made “during a period in which the State of Israel is coping with the threat of thousands of rockets and missiles on millions of its citizens, and is conducting an extensive operation to remove the threat over all the residents of Israel.”

Three days later, the Justice Ministry froze the decision and summoned Jerby for an August 24 hearing, stating that he had overstepped his authority.

Religious females in Israel are exempt from the otherwise mandatory draft. Some opt to volunteer for one or two years of national service instead.

The human rights organization currently has one slot for a volunteer, according to Haaretz.

B’Tselem is outspoken in its criticism of Israeli policy and alleged human rights abuses.

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