Jonathan Cook: the Blog from Nazareth -

Israeli right redefines human rights

The rightwing Institute for Zionist Strategies has been at the forefront of recent campaigns to undermine the civics curriculum in Israeli schools and to “expose” leftwing academics at Israeli universities.

Now the chairman of the IZS, Yoaz Hendel, until recently one of Netanyahu’s senior advisers, has come up with a new wheeze: he has established a rightwing human rights group, called BlueWhite Human Rights, to prove rightwing Zionism and human rights are not incompatible.

Well, he’ll fail in that endeavour by definition. But then again, reading Hendel’s goals, it’s clear his mission isn’t really to support the human rights of Palestinians, it’s to clean up the Israeli army’s image. In other words, this is another hasbara exercise.

According to the Haaretz report: “The volunteers will record the activities at the checkpoints to prevent friction between the soldiers and Palestinians passing through the checkpoints and report to the appropriate bodies any case in which IDF soldiers acted illegally. … The organization does not intend to release the complaints to the media but to pass them to the Central Command, Military Prosecution or IDF spokesman to have them examined and investigated.”

In short, this will all be kept in the family. It’s about helping the Israeli army to refine its PR. That’s clear from the group’s charter, which states that it is “an alternative to the organizations whose aims and practices confuse the cause of advocacy for human rights with political action to vilify, demean and delegitimize the State of Israel before the world.”

But there’s also something more sinister at work here too. Hendel is trying to redefine “human rights” to make them occupation-friendly. He’s hoping to create a rival yardstick for human rights, one with which he can beat the leftwing (ie real) human rights activists.

Doubtless now, when war crimes are committed at a checkpoint, we’ll get Hendel or one of his cronies, rather than Machsom Watch, invited on to the BBC or CNN to explain what happened and why it was not really a violation of the Palestinians’ human rights.

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