In email correspondence (July 27, 2010), B’Tselem informed NGO Monitor that Mitchell Plitnick is no longer employed by the organization. (B’Tselem’s email did not indicate when he left; Plitnick’s blog indicates that this probably took place prior to June 15, 2010.) Plitnick was the first director of B’Tselem’s Washington, DC office, which opened in September 2008, and became Director of US Communications when Uri Zaki joined B’Tselem’s U.S. staff in December 2009.
As documented by NGO Monitor, Plitnick was previously employed as the director of education and policy at Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP). JVP is active in anti-Israel activities, including divestment, promoting the BDS (boycotts, divestment, and sanctions) movement, and campaigning to pressure US President Barack Obama to suspend “military aid to Israel” in the wake of the “Free Gaza Flotilla.”
In his role as a top JVP official, Plitnick defended the application of “apartheid” rhetoric to Israel, while referring to this as not “very useful.” Similarly, he promoted “selective and targeted divestment that is aimed exclusively at the occupation, not at Israel itself,” although this includes “campaigns against companies that do business with the Israeli military, such as Caterpillar.”
Plitnick and B’Tselem’s Washington Lobbying Office
B’Tselem’s claimed mission is “to document and educate the Israeli public and policymakers about human rights violations in the Occupied Territories…. and help create a human rights culture in Israel.” But, in contrast to this statement, many of the NGO’s activities, whose funders include European governments, are focused on lobbying foreign governments and media in order to pressure Israel. In September 2008, B’tselem opened a Washington, D.C. lobby office.
At the time, NGO Monitor’s analysis noted the problematic nature of an Israeli organization using European funding to lobby in the U.S., as well as the choice of a JVP activist – and the selection of Plitnick – to head this activity.
As B’Tselem’s U.S. representative, Plitnick “briefed Congressmen and State Department staff; spoken at conferences, synagogues and universities, provided briefings for the press and at think-tanks, facilitated visits by Israeli human rights experts and established B’Tselem as the central human rights clearinghouse in Washington” (B’Tselem email, December 11, 2009)
Under his leadership, B’Tselem took a leading role in pressing the Obama administration to endorse the Goldstone report. A joint NGO letter to Congress criticized U.S. House Resolution 867, which condemned Goldstone’s report as “biased and unworthy of further consideration or legitimacy.” B’Tselem’s U.S. office circulated this letter and encouraged supporters to lobby Representatives to vote against the resolution (B’Tselem email, November 2, 2009).
At B’Tselem, Plitnick also launched primitive attacks against NGO Monitor, writing (falsely) that the Israeli government was “[p]artnering with the extremist right-wing group [sic], NGO Monitor,” in an attempt “to undermine its own human rights community…”
He targeted NGO Monitor on his Twitter account, including the use of expletives directed at Gerald Steinberg (Poor Gerald Steinberg, forced now into outright lies as even the IDF knows he’s full of shit. – February 12, 2010 – post subsequently removed. ) Plitnick also referred to NGO Monitor’s “rampant hypocrisy” (July 6, 2010) and “anti-democracy campaign” (June 30, 2010), and labeled NGO Monitor’s staff “radical loons” (June 18, 2010).
After the violent “Free Gaza Flotilla” incident, he wrote on Twitter, “Pure crime, [Israel] has gone totally nuts” (May 31, 2010). And after experiencing a rocket attack in Sderot, Plitnick described how “After feeling the impact of the Qassam, I could only imagine how much greater the impact of the Israeli shelling was in Gaza” (B’Tselem email, February 10, 2009).
The replacement of Plitnick by Uri Zaki suggests that B’Tselem officials have responded in part to the ethical and professional issues noted in NGO Monitor’s publications. The broader questions related to the contrast between B’Tselem’s mission statement and its political lobbying activities outside of Israel remain to be addressed.