Maurice Ostroff

Another open letter to B’Tselem spokesperson Sarit Michaeli

Dé·jà vu, the strong, sometimes unwelcome, sensation that a current event has been experienced in the past, is exactly what I experienced on listening to an interview with B’tselem spokesperson Sarit Michaeli on the IBA English news this morning.

On April 22, 2011 I responded to a letter from Ms. Michaeli as follows

“.. I ask in all seriousness whether B’Tselem is more focused on its declared political program of acting primarily to change Israeli policy than on protecting human rights of all parties. I ask this question because of the following declaration on the B’Tselem web site


“As an Israeli human rights organization, B’Tselem acts primarily to change Israeli policy in the Occupied Territories and ensure that its government, which rules the Occupied Territories, protects the human rights of residents there and complies with its obligations under international law”.

And after listening to the IBA interview I must conclude that B’Tselem has all the attributes of a political party, not a human rights organization.

By its own admission B’Tselem is not in the least concerned with universal human rights but only on what , B’Tselem, in its sole judgement, considers Palestinian rights. Certainly Israeli rights are not even considered and in pursuit of its PUBLICLY stated PRIMARY objective of changing Israeli policy, B’Tselem doesn’t hesitate to resort to exaggerations and misinformation. In focusing on its objective B’Tselem shuts its organizational eyes to even the most blatant human rights violations by Palestinians.

The sheer arrogance of the manner in which B’Tselem pronounces its immediate verdict about events on which experts reserve judgment is astonishing. When, during the interview, Ms. Michaeli defined a legitimate military target as one that makes a concrete contribution to the hostilities, the interviewer responded that the army says these homes are also used as command and control centers and in any event sufficient warning has been given in advance so that family members could be evacuated.

MS. Michaeli dismissed this statement derisively. Drawing on her expertise in international law. military matters and close combat warfare Ms. Michaeli responded that the problem is the army did not give concrete information about the specific contribution the home itself gave to the Hamas military effort. One must wonder whether Ms. Michaeli expects that in the midst of a military operation the attackers must pause and prepare a detailed dossier explaining why it considers a particular site a legitimate target and submit it to B’Tselem for approval before proceeding.

Ms. Michaeli continued.

“It SEEMS she said, [not it has been proved, it only SEEMS] that based on the information provided these homes were demolished because they were, you know, somehow connected to a Hamas operative”

She added  that the warning isn’t some sort of favor the army is bestowing. There is a requirement in international law she said, to provide prior warning and the warning has to be effective. If the residents don’t evacuate for whatever reason the warning in her opinion is invalid as not effective. (It would be interesting if readers would provide examples of such warnings being given in recent NATO or USA combat zones)

In the entire interview not one word was raised about the volleys of rockets fired by Hamas at civilian population centers from civilian locations – a double war crime.

Perhaps the most appropriate response to B’Tselem was given by none other than PA envoy to UNHRC, Ibrahim Khreisheh.

B’Tselem please note that Mr. Khreisheh warned that pressing charges against Israel in international courts would backfire. Speaking on Palestinian TV (translated by MEMRI), he said that Hamas is committing war crimes by firing rockets into Israel.

“missiles being launched against Israel constitute crimes against humanity..The missiles that are now being launched against Israel, each and every missile constitutes a crime against humanity, whether it hits or misses, because it is directed at civilian targets…Therefore, targeting civilians, be it one civilian or a thousand, is considered a crime against humanity.”

B’Tselem please note too, that he added

“.. many of our people in Gaza appeared in TV and said that the Israeli army warned them to evacuate their homes before bombardment. In such a case, if someone is killed, the law considers it a mistake rather than intentional killing, because (the Israelis) followed the legal procedures.. Hamas, firing from PA controlled areas, does not warn civilians before firing on them and by doing so is committing a war crime:

Ms. Michaeli, please listen here to what the PA envoy to UNHRC has to say



About the Author
Maurice Ostroff is a founder member of the international Coalition of Hasbara Volunteers, better known by its acronym CoHaV, (star in Hebrew), a world-wide umbrella organization of volunteers active in combating anti-Israel media and political bias and in promoting the positive side of Israel His web site is at