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NGO Monitor Analysis (Vol. 2 No. 12) 15 August 2004

Betselem: Report Uses Outdated Sources and the Rhetoric of Demonization

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Although Betselem is often seen as non-political and focused exclusively on human rights, NGO Monitor's analyses have highlighted a very blatant political agenda. This agenda, and the use of abusive and demonizing rhetoric designed to elicit political support for Palestinians is reflected again in Betselem's 9 July 2004 report entitled "The Forbidden Road Regime in the West Bank - An Apartheid Practice". The use of the term "apartheid" disqualifies and belies Betselem's claims to be non-partisan and to report without distortion.

Substantively, the report criticizes Israel's policies on roads and highways in the West Bank, which restrict Palestinian travel on certain roads due to security concerns resulting from continuing terror attacks. The language that is used reveals the core goal of demonization: "The roads regime, which is based on separation through discrimination, bears clear similarities to the racist apartheid regime that existed in South Africa until 1994. An individual's national origin determines their right to use various roads. This policy is based on a racist premise: that all Palestinians are security risks, and it is therefore justifiable to restrict their movement. Thus the policy indiscriminately harms the entire Palestinian population, in violation of their human rights and of international law."

To its credit, and unlike other anti-Israel NGOs, Betselem also criticizes Palestinian terrorist attacks on Israeli as 'unjustifiable' and 'war crimes', stating that "Not only is Israel entitled to take measures to defend its citizens against such attacks, it is required to do so." However, by claiming that Israel's policies are "in breach of fundamental principles of international law", Betselem ignores the security realities, and does not provide viable alternatives.

According to a 10 July report in Ha'aretz, IDF sources said that the Betselem report appeared to be based on data gathered two years ago and blatantly ignored changes on the ground in the past year, including the lifting of closures in the West Bank almost a year ago, and the removal of many roadblocks in the past few months. Pointedly, the Betselem report ignores the effects of Israel's security barrier in allowing the reduction in the number of checkpoints as the security situation improves as a result of its construction.

In this and other reports, Betselem continues to pay lip service to Israel's right to self-defense, declaring its security policies to be 'racist', 'discriminatory' and part of a policy of 'apartheid'. The use of such intemperate and demonizing language is part of this NGO's politicized campaign against Israel and in support of Palestinian efforts to delegitimize Israeli self-defense. Betselem's campaign of demonization thus harms its own credibility and demonstrates core motivations that are antithetical to human rights norms.

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