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B’Tselem to Netanyahu: We will not take orders or succumb to pressure

April 26, 2017 4:30 P.M. (Updated: April 26, 2017 7:09 P.M.)
Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends the weekly cabinet meeting at his office in Jerusalem on July 5, 2015 (AFP/Baz Ratner, File)
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- After German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel met with Israeli human rights groups Tuesday night, in defiance of an ultimatum by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who asked the diplomat to cancel the meetings, B’Tselem -- one of the organizations Gabriel met with -- affirmed that it would not succumbed to pressure from Netanyahu and reiterated its opposition to the Israeli occupation.

In a continuation of rising the Israeli government's intolerance for criticism targeting the state, Netanyahu canceled a scheduled meeting with Gabriel, after the foreign minister committed to meeting with B’tselem, Breaking the Silence -- a group dedicated to publicizing the testimonies of former Israeli soldiers who had committed or witnessed human rights violations while deployed in the occupied Palestinian territory -- and other “left-wing” groups.

The Israeli prime minister's office said in a statement that Netanyahu's policy was “not to meet foreign visitors who on trips to Israel meet with groups that slander (Israeli) soldiers as war criminals.” However, both Netanyahu and Gabriel have since assured that relations between Israel and Germany would not be harmed by the incident.

Gabriel said that "you can’t get a proper and comprehensive picture in any country on Earth if you only meet in government offices,” and reportedly refused to take a phone call from Netanyahu on Tuesday afternoon explaining his position.

In a press release published late Tuesday evening, B’Tselem addressed Netanyahu, saying that “civil society will not take orders or succumb to pressure. We will go on opposing the injustices of the occupation until it becomes a thing of the past.”

The human rights organization reiterated their firm opposition to the 50-year-old Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territory, which “the Israeli prime minister and most of his colleagues in both the coalition and opposition parties” had no intention of ending, and called upon the international community to hold Israel accountable for its violations.

“As long as it does not meet the minimum conditions of democracy, Israel cannot enjoy the privileges that go with being a card-carrying member of the club of democratic countries. There must be a price to pay for continued military control of another people while thumbing one’s nose at basic moral values and international law,” B’Tselem said.

As international criticisms around Israel’s human rights violations in the occupied Palestinian territory have increased in recent years, the Israeli government has responded by fast-tracking a series of right-wing policies that rights groups claim are aimed at weeding out any criticisms aimed at the Israeli state.

B’Tselem and Breaking the Silence have both accused the Israeli government of targeting them amid a government crackdown on dissent.

Both groups were listed in Israel’s controversial "NGO transparency" law passed last year, which compels organizations to reveal their sources of funding if more than 50 percent came from public foreign entities. In February, the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, also introduced legislation that would limit left-wing organizations’ access to government information.

Breaking the Silence was accused of “treason” in March last year for releasing accounts by soldiers reportedly containing classified information -- a charge the group has consistently denied.
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