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Behind Israel's campaign to vilify peace groups

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Reprinted from Middle East Eye

Far-right activists spying on Israeli human rights community received hidden funds from Netanyahu government

Ezra Nawi is one of Israel's most courageous human rights/pro-democracy activists.
Ezra Nawi is one of Israel's most courageous human rights/pro-democracy activists.
(Image by Jewish Voice for Peace, Channel: JVP18)
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JERUSALEM -- Israeli government funds have been secretly transferred to far-right organizations leading a smear campaign against groups opposed to the occupation, investigations show.

The right-wing groups have received tens of millions of dollars in state funding, either directly from the government or via Israeli local authorities representing the settlements in the West Bank.

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In three known cases, publicly funded far-right organizations launched spying operations on human rights groups.

Other state money has gone towards ad campaigns claiming to expose peace activists as "moles" planted by foreign governments to damage Israel.

Human rights activists, the campaigns claim, are betraying their country by providing information that fuels criticism overseas of Israel and helps to bolster an international boycott movement.

That message closely echoes the justifications offered by government ministers for new legislation to weaken Israeli organizations that monitor abuses of Palestinians in the occupied territories.

The United States and Europe have condemned the Israeli government's draft bill, with the European Union describing it as "reminiscent of totalitarian regimes."

"This is a campaign of intimidation and incitement, and it is being orchestrated at the highest levels of the Israeli political establishment," said Yehuda Shaul, a former Israeli military commander and co-founder of Breaking the Silence, which collects testimonies from serving Israeli soldiers that highlight abuses against Palestinians.

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"Netanyahu and his ministers want to shut down all voices in Israel that oppose the occupation. They are doing what fascists always do -- looking to blame an enemy within."

Activist "moles"?

Sarit Michaeli, a spokeswoman for B'Tselem, a prominent Israeli group monitoring human rights violations in the occupied territories, agreed.

"We are seeing a general assault by the government and right-wing groups on those parts of Israeli society that are still standing up for democratic values," she said. "The aim is to silence us."

Breaking the Silence and B'Tselem have been the target of intense criticism from both Netanyahu's government and far-right groups.

One, Im Tirtzu, published a report released last month accusing several anti-occupation groups of being "shtulim" -- the Hebrew word for "moles" -- on behalf of European governments.

An associated video shows a Palestinian stabbing with a knife and suggests that human rights groups like Breaking the Silence and B'Tselem will help him evade justice.

Illustrated with face shots of four leading peace activists, it concludes: "While we fight terror, they fight us."

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www.jonathan-cook.net

Jonathan Cook is a writer and journalist based in Nazareth, Israel. He is the 2011 winner of the Martha Gellhorn Special Prize for Journalism. His latest books are "Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East" (Pluto Press) and "Disappearing Palestine: (more...)
 

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