“Hello everyone! I am Don Shaul, 13 years old from Haifa, and I am in charge of the Israeli campaign for ‘Youth for Human Rights’” a charming e-mail announces, one of many that have recently flooded the e-mail boxes of journalists.
“People do not believe that I am only 13 and am involved and concerned with human rights and that I appear and speak in the press. I believe that children have a lot of ability to influence others and it is no wonder that I and other kids like me care. After all, if we, the kids, do not worry about human rights, who will worry about it when we grow up?”
Apparently, behind these emails is a Haifa boy, who presents himself as the “Israeli representative of the world wide campaign”, and boasts that he is the director of the organization “International Youth for Human Rights - Israel Branch”, whose purpose is to arouse awareness about the UN human rights treaty.
Youth group's logo
A few weeks ago, Shaul sent an e-mail stating that under the auspices of the Israel Scientology center, he was setting up a stand on International Human Rights Day to distribute information, and attached a picture of himself in a suit and tie. This time he sent out invitations to a “special party where community workers, journalists and human rights workers would attend” that would take place at the Har Hacarmel hotel in Haifa at the end of January.
As heartwarming as the initiative appears, the intriguing e-mail does not reveal who is behind this new youth group that appeared out of nowhere, who is financing the event, and how Shaul received the e-mail addresses of the journalists whom he invited.
A short conversation with Shaul revealed that the Scientology movement and the UN are behind this initiative. The hotel that is hosting the event, claims Shaul, is donating its services for the event, and among those financing the event is “The Citizens' Commission on Human Rights” (an organization which investigates and exposes psychiatric human rights abuses, founded by the International Scientology movement).
“NO!” Shaul exclaimed when asked the innocent question of whether the Israeli branch of “Youth for Human Rights” which he leads is part of the Scientology movement. “We are a completely independent body. The organization was established outside of Israel, and we are the local branch. We are only one of several organizations which receive donations from them, but we have absolutely nothing to do with them”.
Yet, on the youth group’s international website it says that it was established by the International Fund for Human Rights, which – surprise, surprise - is funded by the Scientologists. A deeper search of the website revealed no mention of UN backing for its activities.
“We give services to thousands of children, but we only have around 20 children active in the organization”, replies Shaul when he is asked how many members there are in the group, and he adds that since they do not have a clubhouse, they meet in members' homes.
“When we have the party we will already be registered as a non-profit organization”, he promises, and when we asked him how a 13 year old boy can do that and pay for the registration fee, he explains that “the parents help with the money, and an adult will register the organization”.
The UN, he insists, gives the young movement information pamphlets and financing, as does the international youth movement and the Scientology center in Israel. “But we are a separate organization. I know what Scientology is and that is enough for me, there is one girl whose family are Scientologists but all the others are not. The subject of Scientology does not make a difference- I know that we are doing only good. What could be bad about being active for human rights?”
Is there an adult who advises you?
“Eli Chaim. He is a man who advises businessmen and also us”.
After numerous unsuccessful attempts to reach Eli Chaim at the number which Shaul gave us, we approached the Har Hacarmel hotel to see if they support the youth group and why.
The hotel director Misha Blumenfeld checked the contract with the youth group, confirmed that the party will take place and that he is only taking “a little bit of money. If I hear about distressed youth who want to help the community, I am willing to be nice and reduce the price”, he explains. “They came here and explained that they were an organization that works for human rights, and we were happy to help”.
During the conversation we learned that the event was coordinated with the event planner of the hotel, who gave us the telephone numbers of the organizers.
We then called the number, and the phone was answered by the Scientology center in Tel-Aviv. “Is Eli Chaim there?” we asked, and the polite voice on the line replied, “Eli Chaim is not here right now”. He did not return any of our phone calls, but our numerous attempts yielded a conversation with Amir Levi, special events director for the Israel Scientology center, who was nervous about the image of the movement about which “they have spread innumerable lies”.
What is the connection between the youth group and Scientology?
“The ‘International Youth for Human Rights’ group, whose Israeli branch is run by Don Shaul, was established by the experienced educator and school principal Mary Shuttleworth, in order to teach children about their human rights, which are based on the UN’s universal declaration of human rights.
The Scientology religion, which has worked to advance human rights and children’s rights for the past four decades, is one of the strong supporters of the organization and the information material which they use: the pamphlet “What are human rights?” and clips which present the 30 clauses of the declaration, etc.
“The Scientology religion has worked to advance human rights since its inception”, continues Levi. “In the seventies, for example, Scientologists uncovered the brutal incarceration and abuse of black psychiatric patients in South Africa.
Today, in Israel and around the world, Scientologists are involved in uncovering abuse and exploitation by psychiatry, and exploitation of the law and human rights by governments. They support campaigns that deal with the challenges of the modern world, especially after the events of September 11th, the situation in the Middle East and so forth. Our message is that the solution is not to hide or pass Draconian laws, but rather to teach people and governments about the importance of human rights”.
And who finances the activities of the youth group?
“You would have to ask Don Shaul, or his mother”.