Palestine – Rabbis for Human Rights Become Political Power Brokers

June 15, 2012 by David Singer
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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…writes David Singer.

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

  • §  Caritas Belgium
  • §  Church of Scotland
  • §  Church of Sweden
  • §  European Commission
  • §  Evangelical Church– Starkenburg West
  • §  Ford Foundation
  • §  New Israel Fund
  • §  Norwegian Church
  • §  Swedish Church

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.

David Singer is a Sydney Lawyer and Foundation Member of the International Analysts Network


7 Responses to “Palestine – Rabbis for Human Rights Become Political Power Brokers”
  1. i am concerned about those who claim to be ‘rabbis’. Who are these people? Do they teach? Are they in anyways qualified, and by whom or what? As an aging Levi – not in the US nor Israel – I am concerned about the politicalization of the rabbinerate. Seems to me that most of these are children trying to push the boundaries. If they want to be politicians, by all means do that, but don’t pretend to be ‘spiritual’ teachers.

  2. Paul Winter says:

    Rabbis for Human Rights support Arabs who continue to build illegally on state land in Area C, which is under Israeli civil and military control. Those Arabs are showing contempt for Israeli law and through building asserting that Israel has no right to any part of Judea and Samaria. The good rabbis support that stance and all agreements to decide the fate of those areas through negotiations. One would have thought that rabbis would uphold the law and at some stage would have come across the notion that the law of the land is the law.

    David has listed the organisations that contribute to RHR. The question is why RHR needs funding at all, if its members are rabbis. Surely they have individual sources of income. And anyone who does a search will note the RHR was given $432000 in the 5 years to 2009, by NIF. Again, why?

  3. Liat Nagar says:

    Perhaps the donors are fully aware of how their money is being spent!! I wouldn’t be surprised. Power in the hands of humans has to be the most abused quality of all. Rabbis are not necessarily righteous, and this obvious attack on Israel’s Supreme Court is odious for its emotional language and intent.

  4. Shirlee says:

    What a surprise to find the NEW ISRAEL FUND, once again involved in the funding of a group which seeks to undermine the impartiality of the legal system in Israel and the political processes laid down as a result of the Oslo Accords

    The NIF certainly keeps good company too!! (Sarcasm)

    None other than the Ford Foundation

  5. Laura says:

    G-d bless the Rabbis for Human Rights. They dare to speak truth to the powers, as did the prophets to the kings thousands of years ago. This article and several other attacks just testify to the Rabbis’ rightneousness.

    • David says:

      That is certainly the rabbis’ entitlement to do so – as I made perfectly clear in the article.

      What is deserving of criticism is the manner in which they have chosen to play partisan political games under the banner of a human rights organisation – using funds ostensibly raised for humanitarian – not politically motivated – purposes.

      They are not on their own – as the controversy around the New Israel Fund doing exactly the same thing continues to reverberate in Australia.

      I note you are silent about the rabbis’ attack on Israel’s High Court. Do you feel their statements were justified?

    • Brilliant, Laura, simply brilliant rationale !!!
      How on earth did David Singer’s article “just testify” (sic) to the Rabbis’……”righteousenss ” !!!???
      As a realtively small group of selfrighteous misguided people, some of whom are Rabbis, most, actually non Orthodox, RHR behave in a highly provocative manner. Oblivious to the fundamental palestinian determination to create solid obstacles to a genuine peace and coexistence with the Jews of the region, RHR constantly emasculate the Israel-palestinian raport of any fairness in regards to the Jewish cause. The fundamental ideology of RHR and respective mode of action is designed to create “cases” against Israeli institutions and individuals by dishonest extrapolation, highly inflated, therefore distorted incidents in which invariably ONLY the Jewish side is at fault. Receiving essentially financial support from outside Israel, therefore without a solid base within Israel, it is obvious that RHR would strongly object to the transparency in financial supprt Law.
      It is not at all surprising that New Israel Fund have donated in excess of $400,000.. ( four hundred thousand !!) so far to this NGO bent on creating a variety of problems to Israel’s security by irresponsibly giving encouragement, active support to forces bent on destabilising Israel.

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