This report was updated on July 17, 2014. Following Hagai El-Ad’s appointment to head the NGO (May 2014), B’Tselem’s unsupported factual and legal claims and blatant political agenda have multiplied, further reducing credibility. Their donor-enablers, including European governments and the New Israel Fund, share responsibility for these activities.


B’Tselem is supported with grants from the European Union, Norway, Germany (via EED), Ireland (via Trocaire), UK, Sweden (via Diakonia), the Netherlands (via ICCO), the Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law Secretariat (joint funding from Sweden, Switzerland, Denmark and the Netherlands). B’Tselem also receives significant funds from the New Israel Fund (NIF), $1,381,969 in 2008-2013.

Detailed analysis of B’Tselem’s Activities to Date Regarding the Gaza Conflict

1. Four statements present unverifiable statistics based on Palestinian sources regarding civilians casualties in Gaza, and unsupported statements claiming that the Israeli responses violate international law.

Sources are not provided; the reports cite B’Tselem’s “initial findings,” which are apparently based on unverifiable Palestinian eyewitness accounts.

In addition, B’Tselem lacks the legal and military expertise to make determinations regarding the legality of Israeli operations. Extensive legal allegations are solely based on parsing the IDF blog and drawing inferences from statements by the IDF spokesperson. As in the past, B’Tselem does not have the necessary information required to ascertain the legality of Israeli operations. The IDF is under no obligation to provide B’Tselem with evidence of a particular structure’s role to Hamas’ military deployments (i.e. weapons storage, command and control center, etc), or explain the military value of targeting specific Hamas officials.

B’Tselem posted a “Note concerning testimonies about the ‘Protective Edge’ campaign,” admitting that: “With the current military campaign ongoing, B’Tselem is taking testimony from Gaza residents, mainly by telephone. B’Tselem verifies, to the best of its ability, the reliability and precision of the information reported; nevertheless, in these circumstances, reports may be incomplete or contain errors. Given the urgency of informing the public about events in Gaza, B’Tselem has decided to publish the information now available. When the military campaign ends, B’Tselem will supplement these reports as needed.”

B’Tselem also applies a highly faulty logic, claiming that Israel is barred from targeting Hamas officials so long as they (illegally) embed themselves within the civilian population of Gaza and use their own families as human shields. There in absolutely no basis in international law for this claim.

Finally, B’Tselem’s statistics are built around invented categories such as “were involved in combat” versus “did not participate in hostilities” – implying that armed conflict is a “numbers game” focusing on simplistic comparisons of civilian death counts. However, this claim is not based on any legal or moral standard. Legally, the criteria are that military objectives should be proportionate to the civilian harm caused, and as noted, B’Tselem has no capacity for assessing military objectives. (For instance, the accidental death of someone who “did not participate in hostilities” but was near someone who was, or who happened to be near a legitimate target such as a launcher or weapons storage facility located in a house or school, is unfortunate but not illegal.)

2. Four statements that allege “unlawful” behavior by Israel and emphasizing B’Tselem’s political role in “voicing dissent”:

These public statements highlight B’Tselem’s primary political purpose, and further demonstrate B’Tselem’s blatant violation of NGO best practices. Since B’Tselem cannot possibly know essential details regarding the incidents it has commented on – in part because much of the information is not available and in part due to a lack of necessary competence– such “unequivocal public statements” are entirely inappropriate.

3. Six emotive “testimonies,” highlighting the human suffering of Palestinians and Israelis, but largely irrelevant for analyzing the legal and human rights dimensions:

1) Muhammad Hamad, 75, resident of Beit Hanun, relates how bombing killed his family members in their yard, July 10, 2014

2) Muhammad Shahin recounts bombing of al-Hajs’ home, Khan Yunis refugee camp; 8 members of al-Haj family killed, July 11, 2014

3) Testimony: Avi Adaf of Sderot describes rocket hit on a neighboring home used for child day care, July 14, 2014

4) Bilal al-Astal recounts bombing that killed 9 in Gazan cafe, where he and others were watching a World Cup match, July 15, 2014

5) Faiza a-Luah on being forced to flee her home in northern Gaza with her children, July 16, 2014

6) Ety Levy, a single mother of four who lives in Ashkelon, southern Israel, describes life in fear under rocket attacks, July 16, 2014

These emotive testimonies contain speculative comments about why Israeli strikes on specific targets may or may not have happened. Such claims are entirely unverifiable and prejudicial, and if anything, bolster allegations that Hamas is illegally using the civilian population of Gaza as human shields.

4.One statement solely focused on violations of Israeli rights, which is unique among human rights NGOs:

Deliberate targeting of civilians by Hamas defies humanity and is morally and legally reprehensible, July 14, 2014