Featured Post

B’Tselem: Not the wicked but the misguided son

A pre-Passover email sent out by the NGO's US chapter highlights all that is wrong with the organization's perspective

Uri Zaki, the Director of B’Tselem USA, in an email sent out before the holiday, established a new question-poser for the Passover Seder:

Are you tired of your uncle depicting you as the “wicked child” at the Seder table just because you are willing to ask the tough questions about human rights in Israel and the occupied territories? The answer is not to become the silent child.

The Israeli NGO, preoccupied with Palestinian rights, forgets that people have responsibilities:

The geographic reality that Israel has created in the West Bank makes it practically impossible for the Palestinians to realize their right to self-determination in an independent and viable state of their own. (B’Tselem’s 2011 annual report)

There is no international law that gives Palestinians the right to have a state. Before B’Tselem insists on giving them one, be it only for Israel’s self interest, should it not wait for Palestinians to accept that Israel has a legal right to exist? Should B’Tselem not wait for them to stop firing rockets into Israeli cities, and to stop sending suicide squads before it punts self-determination for the Palestinians?

Even when Israel gave Palestinians, in Gaza, self-determination, the NGO wanted more:

In 2005 Israel withdrew its forces from the Gaza Strip, which increased Palestinians’ control over their lives…However, Israel continues to hold decisive control over major aspects of people’s lives.

What did Gazans do when given control over their lives? They freely elected Hamas on its platform to destroy Israel and exterminate Jews, not forgetting to look behind rocks and trees for the odd survivors. Yet B’Tselem puts the onus on Israel, not on Gaza’s elected leaders, to lift up the lives of Gazan people.

B’Tselem’s creed is that Israel occupies territories that do not belong to the Jewish nation:

There is an international consensus that the territories that were captured by Israel in the Six-Day War in 1967, including the West Bank and East Jerusalem, are occupied territories.

Its convictions about where Jews may live are shaped by international consensus. It therefore allows the United Nations, hijacked by genocidal Arab states and non-aligned allies whose votes are bought, to decide where Jews may live. And the NGO takes its cue from Human Rights Council appointees who, in deciding where Jews may live, give them the same regard as they would a vicious dog.

B’Tselem also tags along with European powers who deny a Jewish claim to the West Bank, ignoring the fact that EU leaders must perforce appease millions of restive Muslim holders of the EU passport. Such international elements are what shape the NGO’s convictions that Jews have no claim to the West Bank.

To Israel’s security needs B’Tselem nods before making a theoretical distinction between genuine and false security concerns:

It is crucial to understand what are necessary and legitimate security measures and where security concerns are exploited to advance other agendas. This is the crucial role of government watchdogs like B’Tselem.

It’s unfortunate that it stops short of listing criteria to help Israel distinguish legitimate and necessary security from the illegitimate type. Take a checkpoint crossing. Would it be illegitimate to detain a UN ambulance conveying a Palestinian stroke victim heading to an Israeli hospital? It’s clear that the old man needs urgent attention. But it’s also possible that the ambulance is part of a terror plot. How should a young Israeli choose  between delaying the ambulance, thus risking an old man’s life, or letting the ambulance go through without a check?

Uri Zaki, director of B'Tselem USA (photo credit: courtesy)
Uri Zaki, director of B’Tselem USA (photo credit: courtesy)

Now look at how this real scenario played out. The soldier, thinking of his own grandfather, decided to wave the ambulance through. But as it started off he changed his mind, and stopped the vehicle. Something seemed not quite right. The patient had been sitting at the back of the ambulance, alone. He opened the ambulance door, moved the old man aside, and there, under the bench of the UN ambulance he found a massive explosive belt laden with screws and bolts for optimum carnage. By delaying the ambulance the soldier saved countless lives. By what rules would a B’Tselem staffer, imbued with profound respect for Palestinian rights, have acted?

B’Tselem criminalizes Israel by charging it with breach of an international law that passed its sell-by date half a century ago, and which in any case is inapplicable to the West Bank situation:

Despite the fact that international law states that an occupying country is not allowed to transfer its population to an occupied territory, there are over half a million Israelis living beyond the Green Line.

It applies that part of the Geneva Convention of 1949 that deals with the rights of civilians under military occupation, and prohibits the occupying power from flooding the occupied territory with its own citizens. Yet, as many international jurists have pointed out, Israel has transferred no one to the settlements, whose inhabitants are there of their own free will. Further, it is by no means clear that Israel was ever, legally, an occupying power. In 1967 it had as good a claim as any to the West Bank, in effect stateless land.

B’Tselem makes Jews feel guilty about settling land, though no international law has earmarked the West Bank for another people. It makes house-building something to be ashamed of, and turns the development of infrastructure into a crime.

Settlers exploit large swaths of land… and receive extravagant allocations of the Jordan Valley water supply… In addition, the settlements mine minerals and operate archeological and tourist sites, including the beaches of the Dead Sea… The extensive exploitation of the area’s resources contravenes international law. (B’Tselem’s 2011 annual report)

Our enemies, Professor Talia Einhorn astutely observed, “understand much better than we do that the second we give into the lie that parts of Israel belong to others, we’ll be left with Zionism without Zion. If you take away the Temple Mount, Jerusalem, Hevron (all parts in dispute) then we’ll actually turn into colonialists. After all, what ancient historical connection do we have to Tel Aviv?”

B’Tselem management has fallen victim to the Jewish guilt complex. Certainly this would explain part of its creed. Nothing is more important than to make a distance from the stereotypical Israeli as a mean occupier. Says Jessica Montell, the Executive Director: “From my country, I demand a lot more.”  Promptly showing that she means it, Montell sets an Olympian bar for Israel to clear. And taking her up on the challenge, Israel-haters wait and watch: How high can Israel jump? At the merest shiver of the bar the court of public opinion is transported into a frenzy of scorn and condemnation. And instead of a light unto the nations, they turn Israel into the world’s polecat.               

But the NGO is equally driven by its business model. Like NIF, Yesh Din or Adalah, it has a vested interest in human rights abuses, real or not. Abuses are the NGOs stock-in-trade. Like an avid gardener it pokes, prods and pries worms out of the West Bank soil. It even gives away digital cameras to help Palestinian agents keep the supply of worms flowing. But by incentivising its agents on the ground, B’Tselem acts the agent provocateur. And by promoting the manufacture of abuse, it drags Israel through the mud.

How goodly are your sentiments, O B’Tselem, your dwellings, O Palestinian rights protector. But how misguided they are.


Editor’s note: Uri Zaki’s Passover message also appeared in modified form as a Times of Israel op-ed. It can be found here.

About the Author
The writer is a prolific author of novels and non-fiction, essayist and commentator on ‘Enemies of Zion’ which happens also to be the title of his latest book. His works are The Paymaster, 1998; Hadrian’s Echo, 2012; Contributor to ‘War by other means: Israel and its detractors’, 2012; Enemies of Zion, (for publication 2017); and Balaam’s curse ( a novel in progress)
Related Topics
Related Posts