The NGO Front in the Gaza War: B´Tselem
January 28, 2009
In the 22 days of Israel's military operation in Gaza, and continuing after the ceasefire, more than 50 NGOs have produced over 500 statements on the fighting.
NGO Monitor is tracking these statements to provide continual updates on NGO campaigns. This report focuses on B'Tselem. (See previous editions on Oxfam, HRW, Amnesty, and the Exploitation of International Law).
- B'Tselem's donors include: Ford Foundation, Christian Aid, DanChurchAid, Switzerland, Norway, UK, EU, NIF, Diakonia, and Trocaire.
- Since December 27, 2008, B'Tselem has issued over 35 press releases and "testimonies" about the Gaza war, most of which cannot be independently verified. No testimonies of Israeli victims of Hamas attacks were published.
- B'Tselem, along with 8 other Israeli NGOs, participated in a January 14, 2009 press conference and press release entitled, "A Clear and Present Danger, an Israeli call for urgent humanitarian action in Gaza." These NGOs accused Israel of "grave violations of international humanitarian law," "wanton use of lethal force," and "disproportionate harm to civilians."
- B'Tselem's statements largely erase Hamas' use of human shields and its indiscriminate rocket attacks on Israeli civilians. B'Tselem also ignores Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit and does not demand that Hamas grant him access to the International Red Cross – a cornerstone of international humanitarian law.
- On December 31, 2008, B'Tselem accused the IDF of "targeting" civilians and police personnel who were not directly participating in the hostilities. B'Tselem provides no basis for its claim that Hamas "government offices" "do not make an effective contribution to the military activity against Israel and the attack provides Israel with no military advantage whatsoever, and certainly not a clear military advantage."
- Following the killing of senior Hamas leader, Nizar Rayan, B'Tselem labeled Israel's attack "a grave breach of international humanitarian law," despite IDF evidence that Rayan's house served as a "large munitions warehouse" and other military functions. According to B'Tselem, "[i]n the current situation in the Gaza Strip, it is hard to think of a definite military advantage that could have been achieved by bombing the house and killing Rayan, that can justify the killing of 13 women and children." B’Tselem is not qualified to assess the military relevance of the target, and does not present alternatives.
"B'Tselem to Attorney General Mazuz: Concern over Israel targeting civilian objects in the Gaza Strip,"December 31, 2008
- "[T]he military bombed the main police building in Gaza and killed, according to reports, forty-two Palestinians who were in a training course and were standing in formation at the time of the bombing. Participants in the course study first-aid, handling of public disturbances, human rights, public-safety exercises, and so forth."
- "The argument that striking at objects of this kind is consistent with international humanitarian law is untenable. Such an interpretation, which relates to these bodies as military objects, stretches the provisions of international humanitarian law in a way that is inconsistent with the articles cited above, and contravenes the principle of distinction that lies at the foundation of international humanitarian law. An intentional attack on a civilian target is a war crime."
"The killing of Nizar Rayan and 15 members of his family," January 4, 2009
- "[T]he large toll of civilian lives renders the attack a grave breach of international humanitarian law. In the current situation in the Gaza Strip, it is hard to think of a definite military advantage that could have been achieved by bombing the house and killing Rayan, that can justify the killing of 13 women and children."
"Testimony: 3 children killed by missile when playing in the street," January 5, 2009
- " The bomb had been aimed right at them."
"Testimony: Soldiers Killed and injured dozens of persons from a-Samuni family in a-Zeitun neighborhood," January 7, 2009
- "The soldiers came to the house on foot and knocked on the door. We opened and then, threatening us with weapons, they forced us to leave the house. They had bullet-proof vests on and had automatic weapons. Their faces were painted black."
- "The soldiers told us that they would release us and leave only Musa and his uncle ‘Emad in case Hamas came. I understood that they intended to use them as 'human shields.'"
"Witness reports that Israeli soldiers shot woman waving white flag in Gaza Strip," January 13, 2009
- "A Palestinian who is besieged with his family in the Khuza'a area, in the south-eastern Gaza Strip, notified B'Tselem that soldiers had shot a woman waving a white flag and several civilians who were fleeing a bombed house on army orders."
- "Although B'Tselem cannot, at present, independently verify or disprove the witness's claims, it believes their severity merits immediate notification of the media."