B'Tzelem dramatization
B'Tzelem dramatization Reuters

Controversial leftist NGO B'Tselem's director was summoned for a hearing at National Service Authority headquarters following the director's intention to deny the organization the right to receive assistance from National Service volunteers.

The move to deprive the organization of its status is the result of B'Tselem's call on IDF soldiers to refuse to obey orders to open fire at participants in the planned Gaza terrorist march at week's end, in the event that such orders are given.

Minister Uri Ariel, who is in charge of the National Service Administration, said in response: "The organization's encouragement of insubordination in the IDF is a clear violation of the Penal Code, which forbids encouraging citizens to disobey the law, and therefore I appealed to the Director General of National Service."

"It's unthinkable that an organization calling for breaking the law and inciting against the IDF should benefit from state aid. We'll act in accordance with the Legal Advisor's instructions and cancel National Service in a body that calls for breaking the law."

National Service Director Sarshalom Jerbi explained: "The civilian National Service is a state institution with over 18,000 volunteers from all sectors serving on behalf of the State of Israel. It's inconceivable that the State of Israel would allocate services to bodies acting against it and that encourage disobeying IDF orders, which is prohibited by law. Of course in a democratic state it is permissible to express criticism and a dissenting position, but at the same time, the basis for conduct in a democratic state is upholding the law. Therefore, together with Minister Uri Ariel, we insist that activities of the National Service volunteers be legal. There's a clear line separating a legitimate position in Israeli political discourse from illegal acts encouraging military insubordination."

As early as 2014 Jerbi asked to cancel the status granted to B'Tselem as a body utilizing National Service volunteers, against the background of problematic statements and conduct by senior and other figures in the organization.

At the time, Jerbi sent a harsh letter to B'Tselem Director Hagai Elad, in which he criticized the organization's conduct in all activities related to the State of Israel and IDF soldiers in Israel and around the world.

In his letter, Jerbi said, "After examining the operating bodies and in light of the organization's activity against the State of Israel and against IDF soldiers in Israel and in foreign countries, I have decided to terminate your status as a body authorized to operate volunteers within the framework of National Service.

"As an official director on behalf of the State of Israel entrusted with authority whose task is to act for the benefit of the State of Israel and for its citizens, I am obligated to exercise my authority. I must stop the assistance given by the State to an organization acting against it and its soldiers who are truly sacrificing their lives to ensure the safety and security of all citizens in all sectors, who have been for years suffering shooting at their homes, wives, and children," added Jerbi.

Jerbi also referred to Elad's refusal to explicitly answer the question of whether Hamas is a terrorist organization. "Today I was informed that you also refused to define Hamas as a terrorist organization and accused IDF soldiers of firing on houses of Hamas members. Hamas is defined not only by the State of Israel as a terrorist organization, but also by the United States and other countries around the world."

However, the National Service Authority was forced to withdraw its cancellation following a directive published by Deputy Attorney General Dina Zilber, who at the time determined the decision was disqualified due to a series of procedural flaws, and also because it "deviated from the realm of reasonableness under the circumstances."