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

  • Actively pursues its political agenda in the Israeli courts and the Knesset.
  • B’Tselem’s publications reflect its political agenda – “dissent” and opposition to Israeli policy. Under the leadership of Hagai El-Ad, beginning May 2014, dissent was prioritized claiming, “little room is left among the Israeli public to allow for criticism of government policy.”
  • In October 2016, Hagai Elad appeared before a special session of the UN Security Council initiated by Egypt, Malaysia, Venezuela, and Angola, asking the UN to take “decisive international action” against Israel. In his presentation, Elad made no mention of Palestinian terror attacks or incitement.

Political Activities

Lawfare

  • On April 13, 2020, B’Tselem participated in a webinar on “Israel-Palestine at the International Criminal Court,” featuring speakers from Human Rights Watch (HRW), Al-Haq, and Center for Constitutional Rights(CCR).The webinar advanced the NGOs’ long-standing campaign to pressure the International Criminal Court (ICC) to open an investigation of Israelis over alleged war crimes.
  • In March 2020, B’Tselem stated that “The ICC can – and must – investigate the situation in Palestine.” According to an email, “Israel may finally have to start considering the price for its crimes against the Palestinians. We hope the court will make the right decision to back the Prosecutor’s position and rule: there is jurisdiction, and there will be an investigation.” B’Tselem also published  a press release and position paper that accused Israel of using the Holocaust to justify its policies vis-a-via the Palestinians, “the very values that the ICC is meant to safeguard – the values that the world has been trying to promote since the end of World War II, in response to the unspeakable atrocities committed during that dark chapter in history. With shameless cynicism, Israel is trying to use these very horrors to justify continued oppression, land grab and killings at its own hands.”
  • In a January 2020 Ha’aretz op-ed, Hagai Elad alleged that the Israeli legal system “works to ensure impunity for Israeli security forces who kill, abuse or torture them [Palestinians]” and claiming that “For Palestinians, quite literally, the International Criminal Court is their court of last resort” (emphasis added).

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.

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.
  • On September 20, 2016, B’Tselem published a report titled, “Whitewash Protocol: The So-Called Investigation of Operation Protective Edge,” arguing that the IDF investigations are illegitimate because “there has been no investigation of policy issues, including the policy of targeting inhabited homes, which resulted in the Israeli military killing hundreds of people….” On this basis, they argue that in the IDF, “there is no accountability [], only whitewashing.”
    • As documented by NGO Monitor, B’Tselem’s arguments in this report were fundamentally flawed and not fact-based nor legally-based.
  • 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

Employees

  • In March 2019, B’Tselem hired Simone Zimmerman to lead the group’s US political operations. Zimmerman is a co-founder of IfNotNow (INN), a US-based fringe group using highly polarizing tactics in attacking American Jewish institutions citing supposed “support for occupation.”
    • Zimmerman also briefly served as “national Jewish outreach coordinator” for US Senator Bernie Sanders’ 2016 presidential campaign. She was dismissed as a result of profanity-laced social media posts, accusing Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of sanctioning “the murder of over 2,000 people” during the 2014 Gaza War.
  • On November 2, 2017, International Advocacy Officer Sarit Michaeli implied that Israel is to blame for sexual abuse of children in Gaza. Commenting on a Ha’aretz article in which a Palestinian psychologist claimed that “more than a third of the children I saw in the Jabalya refugee camp in Gaza told me that they had been sexually abused,” Michaeli tweeted, “Two million people locked in a big prison for a decade, and they freak out. Who would believe it?”
  • 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.”

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. The FIDH, which is funded by multiple European governments, is a major leader of BDS campaigns worldwide. The group, composed of 178 member organizations, supported campaigns including the BDS campaign against Orange (2015), promoted the EU product labeling guidelines, and participated in the NGO campaign at the UN Human Rights Council to establish a Commission of Inquiry targeting Israel following the 2014 Gaza War.
  • Member of the “Displacement Work Group,” an initiative of Badil and OCHA to “monitor human rights violations (evictions, home demolitions, land confiscations) resulting in the displacement of people from their lands and communities,” along with: Addameer, Al-Haq, Al-Mezan, AIC, ARIJ, Badil, BIMKOM, CARE Intnl., DCI – Palestine section, Diakonia, EAPPI, Ir Amim, ICAHD, Maan Development Ctr, Medical Aid for Palestinians, Oxfam UK, Oxfam Solidarite – Belgium, PA Govt. Spokesperson, PCHR, RHR, Society of St. Yves, Save the Children UK, Shatil, UNFPA, Stop the Wall, ACRI, UNFPA, WCLAC, World Vision, and Yesh Din.

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

2016-2017 amounts based on NGO annual financial reports; 2018-2020 amounts based on quarterly financial reports submitted to the Israeli Registrar of Non-Profits.

Donor20202019201820172016
Bread for the World (Germany)**219,628681,415833,6951,174,934672,766
DanChurch Aid76,5999,920170,214166,103169,155
Diakonia (Sweden)87,125210,610145,929
UNICEF53,21076,626158,237
NGO Development Center (NDC)2,097,650
European Union233,314379,381736,875282,227728,861
France30,132124,008130,219
Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law Secretariat (joint funding from Sweden, Switzerland, Denmark and the Netherlands)*1,444,7562,305,0291,419,619
Norway 198,771307,988341,224673,612689,275
Switzerland266,101269,745128,284
Denmark853,403
Netherlands33,942708,2427,115
Trocaire47,42898,802108,33899,63082,715
Catholic Relief Services (US)153,635298,849334,244392,784455,946
Christian Aid Ireland152,024330,952286,639168,168
UNICEF129,836158,237
EED (Germany)34,010
UN-OCHA534,3342380,954128,728342,928
UNDP446,929229,843317,606
UN Women234,925
Broederlijk Delen8,694
FIDH12,103
ACPP (Spain)14,401
Sigrid Rausing Trust1,392,600838,763
EMHRF14,760
SIVMO10,724
Open Society Foundation541,464472,570
AECID (Spain)19,926

*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).

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Further Reading