B’Tselem – who are they, and what do they stand for

The New Israel Fund is establishing a greater presence in the Sydney Jewish Community, and Naomi Chazan will be speaking at the upcoming Limmud Oz.  One of the organisations they have funded is B’Tselem.

Noah Pollak has written about B’Tselem in an article here.  Just who are they, what is their role in Israel, and who funds them?  Worthwhile questions.  The answers that Pollak provides are most disturbing. 

He writes ” a basic question presents itself: Is B’Tselem a human-rights organization or a political group? ’Tselem, in fact, is consciously trying to have it both ways, using human-rights rhetoric to conceal a radical and indeed anti-Zionist political agenda that would be met with far less sympathy were it honestly expressed.”

Pollak notes “In its 2009 year-end report, B’Tselem proclaimed that “in the past two decades, B’Tselem emerged as the gold standard of human-rights research, serving as an extremely reliable source of information in a contentious and polarized climate.” Yet some of the most polarizing figures in Israel are members of B’Tselem. To understand why B’Tselem acts the way it does, one must understand its members. An organization, after all, is little more than a collection of the people who lead and staff it.  Shortly following its self-proclamation regarding accuracy and moderation, an Israeli columnist discovered that the group’s data-coordination director—one of the most important positions in the organization—had posted a number of curious entries on her personal blog. “Israel is committing Humanity’s worst atrocities,” Lizie Sagie wrote. “Israel is proving its devotion to Nazi values. . . . Israel exploits the Holocaust to reap international benefits.” Israelis, she noted, “don’t erect gas chambers and extermination camps, but if there were any, how many people would actually resist it, and not only in their hearts?” And she admonishes, “In the name of the State of Judaism we have stolen lands, murdered, starved others . . . have created ghettos [for] all kinds of ‘others’ [and] allowed fascists to raise their heads.”  Sagie resigned from B’Tselem following the exposure of these statements. But they are only the most extreme version of a point of view held by B’Tselem’s own leaders.”

Pollak concludes

“The story of those Israeli Jews who have made careers out of attacking Israel’s right to exist, such as Biletzky and Yiftachel, illustrates the degradation of the once mighty Israeli peace movement. Originally, the movement sought legitimacy and prominence in Israeli politics, and received it for a time—and because it was part of the political process, it was constrained by the need for electoral support and popular legitimacy. Yet the collapse of the Oslo Accords in 2000 and the Palestinian terror war that followed presented the peace movement with an existential crisis: With whom, exactly, were Israelis supposed to make peace? The withdrawals from Lebanon in 2000 and Gaza five years later, and the entrenchment in the vacated territory of Iranian-backed terrorist groups, further disillusioned Israelis and called into question the central proposition of the peace movement: if Israel makes the right concessions, peace will follow. And so, over the past 15 years, the peace movement has fallen from a position of influence in Israeli politics to one, today, of irrelevance, an anachronism that no longer has realistic answers to Israel’s problems.

What remains of the peace movement is a white-hot core of activists who refuse to acknowledge their failure and yet cannot gracefully recede from the political stage. They have discovered an innovative formula for rebuilding their political relevance completely outside the democratic political arena: reconstitute themselves as NGOs and conceal their political agenda in the apolitical rhetoric of human rights and international law. In this guise, the peace movement no longer has any need to win elections or offer a serious platform for governance. The NGOs instead position themselves as a blunt opposition force working against mainstream Israeli society, which is viewed as unsophisticated, provincial, racist, and stricken with “security hysteria.” This “human-rights community” has thus not only opposed every consensus Israeli security measure—Operation Defensive Shield during the intifada, the security fence to stop suicide bombers, the targeted killings of terror-group leaders, the Lebanon War, and the Gaza War—but has branded them war crimes and human-rights violations for which Israel should be punished.

In these circumstances, where there is no point in trying to succeed at the ballot box, leftist Israeli activism now directs itself internationally in the hopes that fomenting a narrative of Israeli criminality will invite enough sanction and condemnation from Europe, the United Nations, and America to force Israel to accede to the demands of these otherwise powerless radicals.  The policies they support would constitute nothing less than Zionism’s destruction. And they apparently have no compunction about seeking its destruction from without, since they have learned to their disappointment and rage that Israel is too strong a nation to allow itself to be destroyed from within.”


An article worth reading;  anyone who plans to support an organisation that funds B’Tselem should read it first.

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