When B’Tselem’s Executive Director Hagai El-Ad told an October 14 informal session at the UN Security Council that the international community must take action against Israeli policies, the organization faced major criticism in Israel from across the political spectrum. In his presentation, El-Ad accused Israel of “systematically legalized human rights violations” and stated that the UNSC has a “moral responsibility – and a real opportunity – to act with a sense of urgency…” El-Ad did not mention Palestinian terrorism and focused only on alleged Israeli violations of international law.

In response, Prime Minister Netanyahu declared that B’Tselem “recycled the false claim that the ‘occupation and the settlements’ are the reason for the conflict,” and MK Iztik Shmuli (Zionist Union) added that the move helped promote the “demonization of Israel.” MK David Bitan (Likud) even called for stripping El-Ad of Israeli citizenship. (The head of Americans Friends of Peace Now appeared with El-Ad, but as the organization is not based in Israel, it was not subject to the same criticism.)

(For more on the special session of the UNSC and the repressive regimes that invited B’Tselem, see NGO Monitor’s Blog “B’Tselem does the bidding of repressive regimes at the UN Security Council.”)

In response, Haaretz has helped B’Tselem with an intense campaign to counter this criticism. From October 13 through 26, Haaretz published five news articles on the event, as well as nine opinion pieces, and two editorials that support B’Tselem. Two articles critical of B’Tselem’s appearance – one in English and one in Hebrew – were also published. (See full list of articles below.)

The Haaretz-B’Tselem link echoes the ideological commonality. El-Ad’s remarks at the Security Council largely dovetail with the editorial line of the newspaper. (In his important piece in The Atlantic [“What the Media Gets Wrong About Israel,” November 30, 2014], Matti Friedman noted a similar “alliance” between NGOs and journalists.) Two Haaretz reporters also tweeted about donating to B’Tselem.

The ideological and political alliance is also reflected in the close links between Haaretz and the New Israel Fund (NIF), one of B’Tselem’s major funders and supporters ($1.9 million from 2008-2015). NIF has co-sponsored the “Haaretz Peace Conference,” as well as a recent event in Switzerland, and unsurprisingly, NIF CEO Daniel Sokatch penned one of the first and most strident defenses of El-Ad in Haaretz.

List of Haaretz articles on B’Tselem’s presentation at the UN Security Council (to be updated as more articles are published)

  1. Odeh Bisharat, Thank You, B’Tselem, for Exposing the Skeletons in Israel’s Closet, October 26, 2016
  2. Bradley Burston, As an Israeli, B’Tselem and Peace Now Protect Me. Who Will Protect Them?, October 25, 2016
  3. Michael Sfard,  It’s Every Israeli’s Right, and Duty, to Speak Up – Including at the UN, October 24, 2016
  4. Editorial, We Are All B’Tselem Head Hagai El-Ad, October 23, 2016
  5. Uri Misgav, Israel’s Left-wing Groups Should Close Shop, October 22, 2016
  6. Jonathan Lis, Coalition Chairman Threatens to Strip Citizenship of Israeli Activist Who Criticized Occupation at UN, October 21, 2016
  7. Zeev Sternhell, Yes, Israelis, We Must Air Our Dirty Laundry in Public, October 21, 2016
  8. Carolina Landsmann, Opinion No Israeli Resistance Without a Price, October 21, 2016
  9. Barak Ravid, Israel, U.S. Spar Over Human Rights Organization B’Tselem at UN Security Council, October 21, 2016
  10. Lara Friedman, My UN Speech Reflected Love for Israel, Truth About Settlements, October 21, 2016
  11. Rabbi Eric H. Yoffie, Americans for Peace Now, You Made a Mistake in Appearing Before the UN, October 21, 2016
  12. Editorial, It Was B’Tselem’s Duty to Go to the UN, October 18, 2016
  13. הניחו לו, למנכ”ל “בצלם”, נוה דרומי, October 18, 2016
  14. Daniel Sokatch, Opinion Israel’s Human Rights Defenders Won’t Be Intimidated or Silenced – Even by Their Own Prime Minister, October 26, 2016
  15. Barak Ravid, Netanyahu Slams Human Rights NGO B’Tselem for Joining ‘Chorus of Slander’ Against Israel, October 16, 2016
  16. Hagai El-Ad, B’Tselem Head: Why I Spoke Against the Occupation at the UN, October 16, 2016
  17. AP, Israeli NGO B’Tselem Urges UNSC to Take Action to End Israeli Occupation, October 14, 2016
  18. Judy Maltz, Americans for Peace Now, B’Tselem to Address UN Security Council, October 14, 2016