Thursday, January 21, 2021

B'tselem's accusation of Israeli Apartheid has been a long time coming, after cynical comment made by their then-CEO Jessica Montell in a 2003 interview:
I think the word apartheid is useful for mobilizing people because of its emotional power
She noted approvingly how Palestinian Arabs called Israel's security barrier the 'Apartheid Wall'.

Such cynicism appears widespread within B'tselem --

1.)  In 2019, B'tselem hired Simone Zimmerman to be their US director. Zimmerman is one of the founders of IfNotNow, a group that avoids addressing the right of Israel to even exist:
We do not take a unified stance on BDS, Zionism or the question of statehood.
In 2016, Zimmerman was let go from her position as Jewish outreach director for Bernie Sanders' presidential campaign for a curse-laden attack on Netanyahu that she posted on Facebook.

B'tselem apparently thought that made her a good fit with their other employees --

2.)  B'tselem's International Advocacy Officer, Sarit Michaeli responded to an article in Ha’aretz about a Palestinian psychologist who said that more than a third of the children in a Gazan refugee camp had been sexually abused -- tweeting that it was Israel's fault:

3.)  In 2014, journalist Tuvia Tenenbom published his popular book, “Catch the Jew.” In it, he writes about a conversation with B’Tselem researcher Atef Abu Rub, who was serving as a guide to his group at Yad Vashem and told Tenenbom that the Holocaust was a "lie, I do not believe it."

B'tselem originally defended Abu Rub, who claimed the comment was made by a third party. In the end, however, B'tselem fired Abu Rub.

4.)  In 2011, a B'tselem photographer, Nariman al-Tamimi providing video supposedly showing Israeli police arresting an 11-year-old Palestinian boy for stone-throwing, and deliberately putting him into a police car without his mother.

Yet, a careful viewing of the clip (with Hebrew and Arabic dialogue) reveals that the exact opposite was the case; the policemen invited the mother to accompany her child. At 2:07 minutes into the video, one of the policemen says to the mother, “Come, come, get in.” The cop then asks one of the people standing nearby, “Is that his mother?” When the bystander answers in the affirmative, the policeman repeats, “Get in with him” (the boy). The door is opened for her and she is about to get into the vehicle, as the policemen are saying “get into the car,” but then (2:27) the mother is pulled away from the car by the Palestinian man wearing a black jacket. After the policemen closes the van’s door, a woman wearing a pink shirt pushes the mother towards the vehicle, and then the mother bangs on the door, a heartrending scene.
5.)  In April 2010, B'tselem staff member Lizi Sagie resigned under pressure for statements she 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.”

6.)  On January 8, 2016, the Israeli investigative news program “Uvda” (Fact) reported that B’Tselem employee Nasser Nawaja conspired with Ezra Nawi, a radical activist from the NGO “Ta’ayush,” to entrap a Palestinian man who was interested in selling land to Jews in the West Bank. They did this knowing that the sale was illegal according to Palestinian law and was punishable by death, not to mention the torture that would be likely to precede it.

Responding to the piece with a statement on its Facebook page, B’Tselem said that while it opposed tortures and executions, reporting Palestinians interested in selling land to Israelis to the PA was “the only legitimate course of action.”
When they defended Nasser Nawaja on their Facebook page, B'tselem added a picture describing Uvdah as "Uvdah For Hire"

That is an interesting accusation, considering that B'tselem gets most of its funding from outside of Israel.

NGO Monitor reports that for the years 2012-2019, B'tselem donors include: European Union, Sweden, Switzerland, Denmark, the Netherlands, Norway, France, the United Kingdom, Ireland, the US, and Germany -- and according to annual reports, donations from foreign countries amounted to 64.7% of total donations from 2012-2016.

And there is a reason that most of B'tselem's funding comes from outside Israel.

Writing in 2016, Shmuel Rosner writes in the context of the above-mentioned Uvda report about the B'tselem employee who helped entrap a Palestinian Arab, noting that "B’Tselem is an organization that many Israelis dislike, and they have reasons to dislike it." 

Rosner explains:
Why do human rights activists turn to such immoral methods? Many of them do it because of anger and because of fear. They are angry at a country that refuses to accept their political recipe for Israel. They fear that their activity of many years will be in vain as the country moves in a direction they disagree with.

The angrier they become, the more apprehensive they become – the more they lose their inhibitions. Thus they turn to immoral methods, they turn to other countries to look for the support they cannot get among Israelis, and they turn to language that makes Israel a caricature – a fascist state, an apartheid state, a villain among nations. They say that they act out of love of Israel – and some of them certainly do – but with time and frustration some are made hateful. And hate makes them lose the ability to separate right from wrong, acceptable from unacceptable, useful from not-useful.
Speaking of the name-calling by human rights activists -- and by B'tselem in particular -- B'tselem recently came out with a report fulfilling Montell's admiration for the usefulness of the word Apartheid "for mobilizing people because of its emotional power."

The media jumped at the opportunity to spread the word about the report, with some describing B'tselem as a "leading human rights organization" -- just the shot in the arm B'tselem needed.

But CAMERA's Tamar Sternhal asks the nagging question: Is B'Tselem Israel's 'leading human rights organization'?
Progress in improving human r.ights in Israel and the West Bank is a legal battle waged in the Knesset and the courts, and in recent years B’Tselem has zero presence, activity and accomplishments in these areas. Tellingly, B’Tselem’s 2019 Activity Report mentions no action taken in the Knesset or courts...On the international level of advancing human rights, the battle is waged at the United Nations Council on Human Rights in Geneva, and B’Tselem is absent from that key venue as well.
What's left?
Social media.

That will certainly keep B'tselem in the news -- but those foreign governments may not necessarily feel they are getting their money's worth.

If those foreign governments are really interested in change, they might be better served supporting the Association for Civil Rights in Israel and Worker's Hotline. Sternthal lists their activities -- and accomplishments.

The reason for their success might have something to do with the fact that they actually have lawyers among their staff.
B'tselem does not.

The media may have noticed the incongruity of non-lawyers weighing in on the legal definition of Apartheid.

The Seventh Eye reported that while the Israeli media did have stories on the recent B'tselem report, it was covered in English -- not in the Hebrew papers.

It quoted B'tselem's Roy Yellin, who asked Haaretz why they covered B'tselem's Apartheid report in English, but not in Hebrew:

Apparently, B'tselem's attempt to have a any impact inside Israel continues to end in failure.

Will their foreign investors notice?


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