National service at the B’Tselem rights group has been canceled amid the NGO’s criticism of the IDF and Israel.
Sar-Shalom Jerby, head of the National Service Administration, sent B’Tselem director Hagai El-Ad a strongly worded letter in which he announced that national service in the organization would no longer be permitted.
Jerby wrote that “in light of the organization’s activities against the State of Israel and IDF soldiers in Israel and abroad, I have decided to revoke your status as an operational body permitted to accept national service volunteers.”
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.”
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.
In response, the NGO accused Jerby of incitement and undermining Israel’s democratic character. Jerby is “fanning the flames of intolerance that have poisoned the the public atmosphere in Israel,” it charged in a statement.
“In this, Jerby has entered the questionable club of officials who incite against anyone who expresses opinions that could be interpreted as criticism,” it said.
The human rights group maintained that its work was important, and affirms that it will continue its fight.
B’Tselem is outspoken in its criticism of Israeli policy and alleged human rights violations. Most recently, the NGO was involved in a lawsuit to permit it to broadcast the names of the slain Palestinian children in the Israeli campaign in Gaza — a move blocked by the Israel Broadcasting Authority, backed by the attorney general. The High Court dismissed the NGO’s petition on Wednesday, arguing that the public radio was not an appropriate venue for what it said was a deeply political statement.
Marissa Newman contributed to this report.