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B'Tselem

Profile

Country/TerritoryIsrael
Websitewww.btselem.org
Founded1989 by “a group of prominent academics, attorneys, journalists, and Knesset members,” largely from the Meretz and Labor Parties.
In their own words“acts primarily to change Israeli policy in the Occupied Territories and ensure that its government, which rules the Occupied Territories, protects the human rights of residents there and complies with its obligations under international law.”

Funding

Activities

Supporting 2009 and 2014 UN Investigations

  • B’Tselem contributed to the campaign for a United Nations investigation into Israel regarding the 2014 Gaza War, stating that “Israel’s law enforcement system, in its present form, cannot investigate alleged violations of international law by Israel in its recent operation in Gaza.” B’Tselem called for an investigation “[i]nvolving independent international observers.”
    • Following the release of the UN Commission of Inquiry report (“Schabas/Davis”), B’Tselem criticized Israel for “whitewash[ing] suspected wrongdoings” and blamed “senior government and military officials” for “lethal policy.” NGO Monitor’s review shows that B’Tselem was the most referenced NGO in the report, with 69 citations.
  • B’Tselem, which campaigned for an “independent and credible investigation” of the 2009 Gaza War, “provided assistance to the investigative staff of the Goldstone mission from the beginning to the end of its research.” Following the publication on September 15, 2009, which referenced B’Tselem more than 56 times, B’Tselem continued supporting Goldstone and lobbying the governments of the United States, the European Union, and others to legitimize the report’s extreme biases and endorse its recommendations.

Allegations of ‘war crimes’

  • In May 2016, B’Tselem published “The Occupation’s Fig Leaf: Israel’s Military Law Enforcement System as a Whitewash Mechanism,” a report that argued, among other things, that “the state ensures that the military law enforcement system will remain in the sole purview of the military… in which only the junior ranks are (ostensibly) investigated, while senior commanders and civilian superiors are absolved of accountability for unlawful acts committed under their authority.” Following the issuance of the report, the organization announced that it “will no longer refer complaints to the Israeli military law enforcement…We will continue reporting violations but will no longer help a whitewash mechanism that also, in advance, absolves senior military and government officials of responsibility for the policy they set out.”
  • On January 14, 2009, issued a press release “An Israeli Call for Urgent Humanitarian Action In Gaza,” accusing Israel of “grave violations of international humanitarian law,” “wanton use of lethal force,” and “disproportionate harm to civilians,” completely disregarding Israeli security concerns and Hamas’ indiscriminate terror attacks against Israeli civilians.

Lack of Verifiable Sources Regarding Fighting in Gaza 2012-2014

  • B’Tselem played a central role in allegations regarding civilian casualties during the 2014 war in Gaza. B’Tselem presented “initial” and “preliminary” data, which were inherently unverifiable and based solely on information from Palestinian sources in Hamas-controlled Gaza. As the Israeli member of the UNOCHA NGO “Protection Cluster,” B’Tselem provided the appearance of credulity to the casualty claims disseminated by UNRWA/OCHA officials and repeated widely by journalists, political leaders, and others.
  • Two years after the 2014 Gaza war, B’Tselem published what it claimed was “data [] based on a meticulous, exhaustive investigation” into the identities of over 2,200 reported Palestinian fatalities during that conflict, and the circumstances of their deaths. B’Tselem states that the number of fatalities “casts doubt on Israel’s claim that all the targets were legitimate and that the military adhered to the principle of proportionality during the attacks and took precautions to reduce harm to civilians.” B’Tselem, however, presented faulty information on civilian casualties in alleged attacks against “families bombed at home,” such as misleadingly portraying a number of combatants as innocent civilians.
  • On January 28, 2015, published a report, “Black Flag: The legal and moral implication of the policy of attacking residential buildings in the Gaza Strip,” falsely alleging that there was a “black flag of illegality flying over” Israeli military tactics during the 2014 Gaza War. The report was an expansion of a highly inflammatory infographic during the war on “Families bombed at home, Gaza, July-August 2014. ”As extensively documented by NGO Monitor, the report and corresponding infographic were not based on facts, evidence, or serious legal analysis.
  • B’Tselem also demonized Israel with a series of publications during the 2014 Gaza war that repeated false or distorted factual and legal allegations.
  • On May 9, 2013, issued a 30-page report headlined “Human Rights Violations during Operation Pillar of Defense 14-21 November 2012,” together with an accompanying press release. The claims in the press release, however, were inconsistent with the actual report, creating misleading perceptions in the media that the Israeli military, among other allegations, “violated International Humanitarian Law.”

Other Political Activities

  • B’Tselem’s publications reflect its political agenda – “dissent” and opposition to Israeli policy – in contrast to fact-based documentation of human rights violations and sound legal analysis. Under the leadership of Hagai El-Ad, beginning May 2014, dissent was prioritized as “little room is left among the Israeli public to allow for criticism of government policy.”
  • On February 24, 2016, B’Tselem, along with HaMoked, released a report “Backed by the System,” funded by the EU, alleging “Abuse and Torture” in Israeli prisons. The claims come from terrorists and suspected terrorists who were imprisoned in late 2013 and early 2014, and who were referred to the NGOs by their relatives. In contrast to the impression created in this report, only 14 of the 116 prisoners complained about “physical violence” during interrogation, and these allegations cannot be independently confirmed.
  • On July 5, 2016 B’Tselem published a statement purporting to document the events surrounding an attempt to stab Israeli border policemen inside a police position in Hebron. The publication claims that “video footage captured by a Palestinian passerby belies the police claim that the lethal shooting was ‘precise and targeted’.” However, the video shared by B’Tselem does not add any relevant information, and it is impossible to ascertain whether B’Tselem’s account is accurate.
  • Together with nine other Israeli NGOs, submitted a public letter to the Israeli Attorney General (July 21, 2014), accusing Israel of “severe violations of international humanitarian law” and calling for “urgent examination of the suspected violations of the laws of war at the level of offensive policy and the rules of engagement.” This was similarly part of B’Tselem’s broader campaign throughout the war to bring about another UN inquiry, replicating the 2009 Goldstone process.

Employees

  • On January 8, 2016, Israeli investigative news program “Uvda” featured an expose showing B’Tselem employee Nasser Nawaja and Ezra Nawi, a radical activist from the NGO “Ta’ayush,” discussing informing the Palestinian Authority security services about a Palestinian man who allegedly intended to sell land to Jews in the West Bank. The sale of Palestinian land to Israelis is punishable by death under Palestinian law, and according to Nawi, suspects are tortured and then killed.
  • In 2014, journalist Tuvia Tenenbom published a book, “Catch the Jew,” in which he recounts a conversation with B’Tselem “researcher” Atef Abu a-Rub, who accused Germany of “giving money to the Jews” and then referred to the Holocaust as “a lie.”
  • Former CEO Jessica Montell has said: “I think the word apartheid is useful for mobilizing people because of its emotional power. In some cases, the situation in the West Bank is worse than apartheid in South Africa.”
  • In April 2010, staff member and NGO activist Lizi Sagie resigned after the organization came under pressure for statements made on her personal blog, including: “The IDF Memorial Day is a pornographic circus of glorifying grief and silencing voices,” “Israel is committing Humanity’s worst atrocities…Israel is proving its devotion to Nazi values…Israel exploits the Holocaust to reap international benefits.”

Foreign donations based on financial reports submitted to the Israeli Registrar of Non Profits (amounts in NIS)

Data from 2015 and 2016 are based on quarterly reports

Donor2016201520142013
European Union1,431,048418,896383,966
Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law Secretariat (joint funding from Sweden, Switzerland, Denmark and the Netherlands)*361,155917,946447,517583,149
DanChurch Aid169,155182,500512,544732,227
Catholic Relief Services (US)260,247316,530554,446463,715
ZIVIK (Germany)352,392170,104
Front Line Bol19,293
Switzerland40,000
Norway 687,128824,550946,477
Christian Aid Ireland168,168171,821187,564188,920
Diakonia (Sweden)182,780124,426271,631
Bread for the World (Germany)**618,862286,637
EED (Germany)34,010111,957523,788
France71,42947,619
UK326,160
UNICEF158,237300,958
UNDP240,227147,955717,358
World Vision70,351
Netherlands135,177
UNWomen117,055
UN-OCHA206,465

*Until 2014, NDC managed the pooled finances of Switzerland, Sweden, Denmark and the Netherlands through its Human Rights/Good Governance program; In 2014, NDC was replaced by NIRAS and Birzeit University, which are managing the government funding under the Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law Secretariat.

** On August 30, 2012, Brot für die Welt merged with the Church Development Service (Evangelischer Entwicklungsdienst-EED) and formed “Brot für die Welt – Evangelischer Entwicklungsdienst” (Bread for the World – Evangelical Church Development Service), as part of the new Evangelical Agency for Diakonia and Development (Evangelisches Werk für Diakonie und Entwicklung).

Partners

B’Tselem is a member organization of Fédération Internationale des Droits de l’Homme (FIDH), a Paris-based association of international NGOs that is active in anti-Israel BDS campaigns worldwide.

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Further Reading