Right-wing Israeli human rights group approved to offer school programs

Unlike left-wing NGOs, Btsalmo covers a wide-range of human rights issues. 

By Sheri Oz, World Israel News

On Sunday, Israel’s Education Ministry added pro-Israel NGO Btsalmo to the list of organizations approved to provide programs to students in schools across the country.

Btsalmo CEO Shai Glick says that the approval provides some balance to the list of human rights organizations, all the others of which are left-wing and considered by critics to be radical and anti-Zionist.

Glick told World Israel News that he had not always considered taking the message behind his human rights work to the classroom.

But in December 2019, he learned of an event that was supposed to take place in a high school in Nesher, a town near Haifa. The event was a meeting with representatives from the The Parents Circle Families Forum, also known as The Israeli Palestinian Bereaved Families for Reconciliation and Peace.

The group bills itself as “a joint Palestinian Israeli organization of over 600 families, all of whom have lost a close family member as a result of the prolonged conflict.” However, NGO Monitor says the group “exploits the grief of families and the language of peace to promote a highly divisive, contentious, and narrow personal agenda.”

The group solely blames Israel for the conflict and brings together families of terrorists who have been killed with families of victims, drawing a false comparison between the two, according to people quoted by NGO Monitor. Israel’s Ministry of Education eventually declared that families of terrorists couldn’t participate in classroom presentations.

The event that caught Btsalmo’s attention was cancelled by the parents’ organization and the municipality.

Curious that the Family Forum would be invited into a school, Glick sent a request to the Education Ministry asking why radical left-wing organizations were providing educational programs.

In their response, they informed him that any registered non-profit organization can apply to be recognized by the Education Ministry as an external provider of educational programming. Glick decided that “instead of just complaining, I will act.” On February 4, he submitted the application forms.

At first his application was rejected, with the claim that one-time sessions are not acceptable. Glick responded by sending the committee screenshots from its own list of approved providers showing that at least two left-wing organizations offer one-time events. Within a few hours, his organization was approved.

As opposed to a left-wing group like the Family Form, which promotes the idea to students that peace will come when Israelis identify with bereaved families of terrorists and which focuses only on Palestinian rights, Btsalmo seeks to raise pupils’ awareness of the broad range of human rights issues facing the country.

Glick, who himself grew up in a Haredi home, offers the example of the scandalous behavior of an ultra-Orthodox Haredi school that refused to let Sephardi pupils enter by the main entrance; instead they had to get into the yeshiva using a back door and through a bathroom.

No other human rights organization fought for the Sephardi pupils, he says.

Similarly, Btsalmo fought for the rights of Muslim students taking exams at Tel Aviv University during the Ramadan fast. It also fought for better Arab representation in the media.

These and other examples will be brought to pupils in order to encourage them to examine a variety of human rights issues that arise in Israeli society and to help them develop the ability to analyze such situations, encouraging them to take a stand for protecting the human rights of all Israelis, he says.

But for Glick, the biggest issue is anti-Semitism. In an interview that appeared on the Elder of Ziyon blog in January, he said “Incitement and anti-Semitism are the biggest danger in the world and they hide, today, in a variety of disguises, for example, in films and programs, poems, Facebook, and on YouTube. For that reason, I fight them.”

Btsalmo, which means “in his image,” defines itself as a human rights organization in the spirit of Judaism. It was founded in 2012 after an exhibition in Tel Aviv that featured Chinese corpses which underwent a process that turned their bodies into plastic. All the human rights groups were silent, Btsalmo says.

“We understood [then] that the human rights organizations were in fact political organizations and it didn’t interest them that in the heart of Tel Aviv they were treating humans like sacks of nylon,” Btsalmo said in a mission statement on Facebook.