[Published 14 June 2012]
Rabbis for Human Rights (RHR) - a leading non-government human rights organization (NGO) in Israel - has made an unprecedented attack on the integrity of Israel’s High Court - whilst simultaneously attempting to undermine what little is left of the stalled Peace Process between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.
The Rabbis have opened themselves up to such criticism as a result of their involvement in a case before Israel’s High Court alleging illegal building activity in Susya – an Arab village located in Area C of the West Bank which is presently under Israel’s total administrative and security control.
RHR’s web site mandates the Organization
“advocating for the rights of marginalized members of society, in defending the rights of minorities in Israel and of Palestinians in the Occupied Territories”
RHR has, however, chosen to go beyond this human rights agenda by engaging in partisan political activity on behalf of the Palestinian Authority - using the Susya case as the catalyst and its residents as political footballs in the process.
RHR made this political objective very clear when warning:
“At first blush, it may seem that this is “only” about the threat to demolish the entire village of Susya, the homes of these simple cave dwellers of the South Hebron Hills. However, the truth is that the results will affect the fate of hundreds of Palestinian homes throughout the Occupied Territories, perhaps thousands. The outcome may well have an effect on our major appeal to return planning authority for Palestinian communities in Area C to Palestinian hands
Since more than 95% of the Palestinian Arabs already live in Areas A and B where – under the Oslo Accords - the Palestinian Authority – not Israel - has full administrative control over what is built and not built in those areas – this claim was both alarmist and unsustainable.
Stating that the Court decision could affect the fate of hundreds – if not perhaps thousands of houses - “throughout the Occupied Territories” - was worthy of the best propaganda efforts of Israel’s most vehement denigrators and detractors.
RHR’s understandable concern for the residents of Susya was being used as a battering ram to pursue a wider political agenda to force Israel to relinquish administrative control of Area C– wholly or partially – to the Palestinian Authority - where very few Palestinian Arabs presently live.
In pursuing this political objective RHR took deliberate aim at the High Court - urging it to adopt the position taken by RHR in the Susya case when arguing:
“We will do our best to insure that neither justice nor judges are mislead or subverted.”
RHR’s vote of no confidence in the ability of the High Court judges to avoid being mislead or subverted without the help of RHR to guide and protect them - was indeed a surprising display of hubris.
RHR was even more strident in the warning it sent to the Court and other state instrumentalities :
“It is extremely important that the High Court judges, the representatives of the army and the government internalize that we are not talking about a small matter that nobody cares about, and can therefore live and devour its prey in the darkness.”
To suggest the High Court judges or those others also mentioned could even be contemplating acting in such a manner could arguably justify a finding of contempt by the Court.
The use of such wild, emotive and unsubstantiated language by Rabbis is surely not to be expected or be part of any civilized discourse between them and a Court charged with hearing a case in which the Rabbis have a deep concern.
The Rabbis – of course - are perfectly entitled to engage in any activity they choose and say what they like – but must be prepared to face any criticism that is subsequently leveled at their conduct.
When such conduct also involves the possible use of funds donated to RHR to pursue human rights objectives – not political objectives – the actions of RHR are thrown more sharply under the public spotlight.
RHR is well-funded and received substantial donations in excess of $5000 each during 2011 from many external donors world wide including:
Church of Scotland
Church of Sweden
Evangelical Church– Starkenburg West
New Israel Fund
Using those funds to undermine the impartiality of the legal system in Israel and the political processes laid down as a result of the Oslo Accords - seriously damages the credibility of RHR and compromises the humanitarian work it undertakes.
To be fair – RHR is not the only NGO in Israel undertaking a mix of political and humanitarian activities under the description of being a human rights organization.
If the Rabbis – or those other organizations - want to also be power brokers - then they should add this new job description to those listed on their websites – so that donors will be left in no doubt as to where their money is being spent.