Deputy FM pulls support for Hebrew University human rights center over NGO ties
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Deputy FM pulls support for Hebrew University human rights center over NGO ties

Tzipi Hotovely says university’s Minerva Center for Human Rights works with ‘anti-Israel organizations’ such as B’Tselem

Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely on Monday pulled support for Hebrew University’s Minerva Center for Human Rights over its support for what she termed “anti-Israel organizations.”

Hotovely accused the institute of collaborating with “a group of anti-Israel organizations,” that “have a track record of ignoring Jewish human rights,” according to Channel 2.

The minister named a list of rights groups and leftwing advocacy organizations under that description, including the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel, Gisha, B’Tselem, Hamoked: Center for The Defense of the Individual, Bimkom, Emek Shaveh, “and others.”

“Most of them are involved in anti-Israel activity,” Hotovely said. “The Foreign Ministry will not collaborate with organizations that slander Israel from every possible platform.”

Minerva Center logo

The collaboration appears to be linked to the center’s fellowship program, which enables students to work in a part-time volunteering capacity at selected human rights organizations. The center’s website does not indicate which NGOs are part of the program.

Hotovely demanded that Minerva remove the Foreign Ministry from the sponsors list on its website.

The entrance to The Hebrew University of Jerusalem. (Wikimedia Commons)
The entrance to The Hebrew University of Jerusalem. (Wikimedia Commons)

Hebrew University issued a statement denying its program was politically partisan.

“The Minerva Center is an academic, not political, body that enjoys an international reputation that works within the framework of the Hebrew University to advance the study of human rights,” the statement said.

“Within the framework of the program’s activities, the center exposes students to the positions of various human rights organizations as well as their relevant government agencies, but the program does not support any organizations or the government.”

Hotovely’s directive comes as B’Tselem has faced fierce criticism for its participation in a session of the UN Security Council on Friday in which the NGO’s director criticized Israeli policies in the West Bank.

B'Tselem director Hagai El-Ad speaks to the UN Security Council on October 14, 2016 (YouTube screenshot)
B’Tselem director Hagai El-Ad speaks to the UN Security Council on October 14, 2016 (YouTube screenshot)

Hagai El-Ad called for the United Nations to take action against the Jewish state’s settlements, telling members of the Security Council that Israel was creating facts on the ground in advance of any peace agreement with the Palestinians. El-Ad spoke of “invisible, bureaucratic daily violence” that dominates Palestinian life “from cradle to grave,” including Israeli control over entrance and exit from territories, and even farming rights.

B’Tselem, along with other left-leaning NGOs, has been accused in the past of working to undermine Israel’s legitimacy by lobbying international forums, and is now subject to the so-called “NGO Law,” obligating nonprofits funded primarily by foreign governments to declare that fact in public reports, advocacy literature and interactions with government officials.

The government has defended the law as a way to increase transparency of foreign government intervention in Israeli affairs, but it has been widely pilloried by critics in Israel and abroad, who see it as targeting leftist groups and clamping down on free speech.

On Saturday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said B’Tselem had joined the “chorus of mudslinging” against Israel and denounced it as “shoddy and unhinged.” He threatened to advance a law to block national service volunteers from working with the organization, even as the group pointed out that it only had one such volunteer annually, and the position was currently vacant.

Raoul Wootliff contributed to this report.

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