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BETSELEM (B'TSELEM) Printer Friendly Page

Betselem: The Ambiguous Boundary Between Public Education and Political Activism
By NGO Monitor
October 4, 2003

B'Tselem Overview
By NGO Monitor
November 13, 2013

B’Tselem Acknowledges Inability to Assess Palestinian Allegations
By NGO Monitor
May 9, 2013

IDF Response to B'Tselem on Crowd Control Weapons
By IDF Spokesperson
January 31, 2013

B´Tselem Accepts BDS Money: Behind the "Bubbes and Zaydes" Façade
By NGO Monitor
November 4, 2010

B’Tselem: Human Rights and Terrorism
By NGO Monitor
June 14, 2010

B’Tselem’s One-Way Looking Glass
By NGO Monitor
January 7, 2010

Comments on B’Tselem’s Civilian Casualty Estimates in Operation Cast Lead
By Professor Elihu D Richter MD MPH and Dr. Yael Stein MD
September 9, 2009

Calculating Civilian Conflict Fatalities: A Demographic Analysis of Palestinian Conflict Fatalities During the al-Aqsa Intifada (29 September 2000 to 26 December 2008) (.pdf)
By Jordan Birenbaum
September 2009

Human Rights Group B’Tselem’s Statistics Are Far from Being Trustworthy
By Tamar Sternthal
September 24, 2008

In 2007, B'Tselem Casualty Count Doesn't Add Up
By Tamar Sternthal
September 4, 2008

NGO Monitor's Analysis of B'Tselem's Annual Report for 2007
By NGO Monitor
March 13, 2008

B'Tselem's Gaza Report -- Ideology Instead of Facts
By NGO Monitor
March 13, 2008

Eleventh Plague Deadly to Israel
By John R. Houk
April 25, 2007

Betselem: Report Uses Outdated Sources and the Rhetoric of Demonization
By NGO Monitor
August 15, 2004


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P.O. Box 53132

URL: Website
Betselem (B'tselem)'s Visual Map

  • Anti-Israel NGO

Betselem (alternately “B'Tselem”), which dubs itself “The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories,” was established in February 1989 by a group of academics, attorneys, journalists, and Knesset members (mostly from the Meretz and Labor Parties). “Betselem” is a Hebrew word meaning “in the image of,” and is taken from Genesis 1:27, which reads: “And God created humans in His image.” In Betselem's view, the modern state of Israel egregiously violates the biblical injunction to treat people—in this case, the Palestinians—as though they were fashioned in the image of God. Therefore, the organization's mission is to “change Israeli policy in the Occupied Territories and ensure that its government ... protects the human rights of residents there and complies with its obligations under international law.”

Betselem's major charges against the Jewish state include the following:

  • “Israel has not fulfilled its responsibilities” to “investigate alleged violations of human rights committed in its jurisdiction by persons acting on its authority,” or to “prosecute the offenders and compensate the injured parties.”

  • In a large portion of the West Bank, “Israel practically bans Palestinian construction and development” while it “encourages the development of Israeli settlements through a parallel planning mechanism.”

  • Israeli “settlements in the West Bank” are situated mostly on “vast tracts of land taken from the Palestinians, in breach of international humanitarian law.”

  • After Israel completed its unilateral disengagement plan and withdrew from the Gaza Strip in September 2005, it “retained control of Gaza’s sea and air space, the crossings between Gaza and Israel, and Gaza’s registry of population.” Then, for three years it “imposed a siege ... prohibiting both Palestinian travel to or from Gaza as well as the import and export of goods,” thereby causing “a severe economic crisis” in the region.

  • Violence by Israeli security forces toward Palestinians … has gradually become a part of everyday reality for Palestinians of the occupied territories.” Additional affronts include “pointless” delays at checkpoints and “humiliating” treatment by Israeli authorities that goes unpunished.

  • When the Separation Barrier in the West Bank is eventually completed, it will “cut off” and “isolate” about 9% of Palestinian lands on the Israeli side, “gravely violat[ing] the rights of Palestinians in the areas affected” and “prevent[ing] any possibility of economic development.”

  • “Since the annexation of East Jerusalem in 1967, Israeli authorities have promoted the twofold goal of expanding the city’s Jewish population and reducing its Palestinian population.”

  • Though “freedom of protest and assembly” in “nonviolent demonstrations” is “a fundamental human right,” the Israeli military “does not recognize this right in the occupied territories.”

While Betselem directs the vast majority of its criticisms squarely at Israel, the organization does occasionally speak out against Palestinian terrorist attacks on Israeli civilians as “war crimes” that cannot be morally justified.

Over the years,
Betselem has produced scores of reports, published in both Hebrew and English, accusing Israel of engaging in all manner of human-rights abuses, apartheid,” “war crimes,” the unwarranted demolition of Palestinian homes, and forced “deportations” without cause. In virtually every case, Betselem's allegations ignore the context established by intransigent Palestinian terrorism. Moreover, when Betselem issues reports about Palestinian casualties incurred as a result of Israeli military actions, it generally makes no mention of the terrorist affiliations or activities of many of those victims, thereby conveying the false impression that they were innocent civilian bystanders.

n January 2009in the midst of Operation Cast Lead, an Israeli anti-terror initiative against HamasBetselem issued a press release accusing the Jewish state of “grave violations of international humanitarian law,” “wanton use of lethal force,” and “disproportionate harm to civilians.” But the organization said nothing about Hamas’s indiscriminate terror attacks against Israeli civilians, Israel's efforts to avoid inflicting civilian casualties, and Hamas's deliberate use of Palestinian civilians as human shields.

Betselem's reports are regularly cited by international NGOs such as Amnesty International, Christian Aid, the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network, Human Rights Watch, and MIFTAH, as well as by numerous Palestinian NGOs. The website
NGO Monitor avers that almost all U.S. government agency studies on human rights in Israel are “heavily influenced” by one or more Betselem reports. The so-called Goldstone Report of September 2009, which famously declared that almost everything Israel had done during Operation Cast Lead had been a crime, cited Betselem research more often (in 56 footnotes) than any other source.

To further disseminate its message, Betselem works extensively with the media, issuing press releases, accompanying journalists into the field, and giving interviews on israel-related topics. The organization also provides periodic updates to local policymakers and diplomats “on human rights developments in the Occupied Territories,” and gives presentations to visiting foreign delegations from around the world.

In early 2010, Betselem hired
Lizi Sagie—an activist/volunteer with the Coalition of Women for Peace, Machsom Watch, New Profile—as its new information director. Before long, Betselem became engulfed in controversy when news outlets reported that Sagie, shortly prior to joining the NGO, had administered an Internet blog wherein she:

  • characterized IDF Memorial Day as “a pornographic circus of glorifying grief and silencing voices”;
  • accused Israel of “committing Humanity’s worst atrocities,” demonstrating “adherence to the values of Nazism,” and “exploit[ing] the Holocaust to reap international benefits”;
  • stated that “Israel has invented antisemitism in order to escape responsibility for its crimes”; and
  • accused her fellow Israelis of having: “stolen lands”; “murdered” innocent Arabs; “starved others and made them thirsty”; “lied to ourselves and the whole world”; and “created ghettos to all kinds” while “allow[ing] fascists to raise their heads.”

With similar disdain, former Betselem CEO Jessica Montell once stated: “I think the word 'apartheid' is useful for mobilizing people [against Israel] because of its emotional power. In some cases, the situation in the West Bank is worse than apartheid in South Africa.”

Betselem has received funding from a host of sources, including Christian Aid, the Commission of the European Communities, DanChurchAid, the European Union, the Ford Foundation, the International Commission of Jurists, the Mertz Gilmore Foundation, the New Israel Fund, Novib, the Shefa Fund, Troicaire, and the United Nations Development Programme. Additional funders include entities from such countries as Denmark, Germany, Ireland, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom.

2010 Betselem received a donation from a group known as Bubbes and Zaydes for Peace, which endorses the Boycott, Divestment, & Sanctions movement.

In mid-2016, Betselem 
published a document providing data on Palestinian “casualties” that had occurred in the West Bank and Gaza Strip since 2009. Though the vast majority of those casualties were terrorists killed by either Israeli security forces or armed civilians, either during or after attacks against Israeli soldiers or citizens, Betselem chose not to provide this vital context. Instead it presented the dead uniformly as victims of homicide. Among the incidents mentioned in the report:


  • Muhammad Zaharan Abd El-Halim Zaharan, 22, an inhabitant of A-Dik village in the Salfit district, was killed on December 24, 2015 in Arielshot. He was shot to death by a female security guard in the industrial zone after he had stabbed her and an additional security guard;
  • Fadi Muhamad, Mahmud Hsiv, 30, an inhabitant of Ramallah, was killed on November 27, 2015 in the vicinity of Kefar Adumim, shot by an Israeli citizen. According to the police, he was shot after running over two persons waiting at a hitchhiking stop. He wounded them, then emerged from his car and ran toward them with a knife in his hand;
  • Shadi Mahmud Khsiv, 31, inhabitant of Ramallah, was killed on November 22, 2015 in the vicinity of Kefar Adumim, shot to death by an Israeli citizen. According to a police spokesperson, he was shot after attempting to run over people waiting at a hitchhiking stop, then emerging from his car and stabbing and wounding one of them;
  • Muhammad Abed Mussah Nimmer, 37, an inhabitant of Al-Isawiyah in Jerusalem, was killed on November 10, 2015 when shot to death by a security guard of the Jerusalem Light Rail when Nimmer attempted to stab him;
  • Fadel Muhamad Awad El-Kawasami, 18, an inhabitant of Hebron, was killed on October 17, 2015 in Hebron, shot to death by an Israeli citizen. According to an IDF spokesperson, El-Kawasami was shot while attempting to stab the citizen.

For additional information on Betselem, click here.



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