The Israeli government’s official ‘lawfare’ contractor

The Israeli ‘hasbara’ group that once sued Jimmy Carter and Twitter, represents Israeli soldiers accused of excessive force and war crimes and files lawsuits at the behest of the Israeli government, calls itself a ‘human rights organization.’

(Translated from Hebrew by Jordan Michaeli)

Illustrative photo of a judge signing a document. (Photo: Shutterstock.com)
Illustrative photo of a judge signing a document. (Photo: Shutterstock.com)

You know Israel’s policy – since no one believes a word it says (and rightfully so) – that the country must operate through third parties supposedly unconnected to it? This has officially been Israeli state policy since 2010, but it seems it was established much earlier.

My Hebrew blog has dealt quite extensively with “Im Tirtzu,” and the fact that it is actually a GONGO (Government Operated Non-Governmental Organization), meaning, an organization pretending to be an independent organization while receiving instructions from the government, and the groups’ ties to the Prime Minister’s Office (Hebrew). Now, thanks to Chelsea Manning – and may we soon see her free – another hasbara organization, Shurat HaDin – Israel Law Center, was exposed as a GONGO.

You may remember Shurat HaDin, which defines itself as a ‘lawfare’ organization and that threatened to sue Twitter for the fact that Hezbollah has a Twitter account, sued former president Jimmy Carter for ‘intentional misrepresentation” of Israel and tried to prevent the Gilad Schalit deal with a petition to the High Court of Justice, among other hasbara tricks.

The organization, which defines itself as a “Jewish human rights organization,” probably in line with [Hebron settler and MK] Orit Struk’s definition, was established in 2003 by Attorney Nitsana Darshan-Leitner. According to the American embassy documents leaked by Manning, Darshan-Leitner told American embassy personal in 2007, as was reported by them, that during its early years (of Shurat HaDin, Y.G.), the organization received instructions from the Israeli government regarding which cases to handle. “The National Security Council (NSC) legal office saw the use of civil courts as a way to do things that they are not authorized to do,” claimed Darshan-Leitner (my emphasis). Darshan-Leitner had of course no problem with that. Among her contacts, she named “Uzi Beshaya” (should be Shaya, Y.G.) from the Mossad and Udi Levy from the National Security Council. Darshan-Leitner told embassy personnel that during one of her trials she requested to impose a lien on a Palestinian imports company. According to her the Mossad provided her with intelligence proving the company was funneling money to the Islamic Jihad movement. The Americans mentioned that similar information was handed over to American officials as well during a classified meeting.

Darshan-Leitner further claimed that today her organization decides independently which cases to handle, but it continues to receive evidence and witnesses from the Israeli intelligence. She bragged that as a result of her lawsuits, the National Westminster Bank runs checkups with the Mossad to find out whether its Islamic charity clients are “kosher.” Undoubtedly, the Mossad will be enthusiastic regarding how effortlessly Darshan-Leitner doles out such information.

Did Darshan-Leitner and her organization, Shurat HaDin, indeed stop receiving instructions from the Israeli government? In 2007, Shurat HaDin filed a lawsuit against the Bank of China, claiming the bank transfers funds to terror organizations. Shurat HaDin told Yediot Ahronot last July that the lawsuit was initiated following an Israeli government request. The Wultz family as well, in whose name Shurat HaDin is acting in court, said that they initiated legal steps after a request by the Israeli government. Recently, after Netanyahu’s visit to China, the Chinese exerted considerable pressure on Netanyahu, and the man that enters every crisis like a weightlifter and finishes like a crumbled candy bar, as Nahum Barnea once said, crumbled this time as well, and forbade Shurat HaDin’s expert witness, Uzi Shaya, from testifying in court. Uzi Shaya, as mentioned, is one of the men Darshan-Leitner named as her contacts within the Israeli government.

It is doubtful that there exists a more cynical organization than Shurat HaDin, one that explicitly talks about “lawfare,” namely the use of legal means to achieve fighting goals – an accusation often thrown at human rights organizations by hasbara hacks such as Ben-Dror Yemini. There’s no doubt Shurat Hadin is pioneering. It’s the first time we’ve encountered an organization receiving a considerable amount of its marching orders from the government and a considerable amount of its information from spooks, and yet dares to define itself as a “human rights organization.” As an example of its activities in the field, Shurat HaDin points to the assistance it provides soldiers brought to trial for using excessive force, its help for Israeli officers accused of war crimes and assistance to Palestinian collaborators. A “human rights organization,” they say?  A you’re-human-and-they’re-not-rights organization would be more accurate. An occupation rights organization.

Related:
Techwashing: Hasbara group strikes back after Hawking boycott
NGO Monitor steps up the absurdity of its attacks