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The Trouble with B’Tselem

‘Commentary’ article alleges bias, wonders why State Dept. doesn’t see it

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In 2008, a Palestinian boy records settlement activity near Hebron with a camcorder provided by B’Tselem.(Hazem Bader/AFP/Getty Images)

Noah Pollak has penned a long indictment in Commentary of B’Tselem, the Israeli human rights organization that is frequently treated as neutral by mainstream (extremely mainstream) sources like Thomas Friedman and the U.S. State Department, but in fact, according to Pollak, endeavors to serve as the “primary resource for those journalists, officials, and activists who saw in Israel’s self-defense the full flowering of a new age of Israeli oppression and criminality.”

It is a deliberate grenade of a polemic—it’s titled “The B’Tselem Witch Trials”—and I’m not sure I would go as far as Pollak does in his condemnations of the organization. “B’Tselem conducts itself as though its true purpose is not trying to convince Israelis to change their policies from within,” Pollak reports, “but rather aiding international efforts to pressure Israel to adopt the kind of policies Israelis themselves have repeatedly rejected in elections.” Well … it’s a private group, and maybe it is hoping that Israelis won’t reject those policies in the next round of elections? B’Tselem tries to pass itself off as apolitical when it really isn’t, Pollak notes, but, again, it’s a private group, entitled to advocate for itself (and anyway, I don’t see Pollak’s own Emergency Committee for Israel acknowledging expressly that is, for absolutely all intents and purposes, a Republican advocacy group). Pollak notes that B’Tselem derives much of its crediblity from being a nominally Israeli organization staffed by Israelis—even the name, he might have noted, gives it extra ground to stand on—though it is funded mainly by European and American groups; while that is relevant, I don’t think B’Tselem is required to answer for it.

If there are people who should be uneasy, in fact, I don’t think it’s B’Tselem, but folks who do treat it and its facts as totally unbiased: “Folks” like the United Nations and, indeed, the State Department. Pollak doesn’t convince me that there is anything inherently wrong with B’Tselem’s biases—and he provides insufficient evidence for his accusation that they push an “anti-Zionist agenda.” But he does persuade me of its biases, and thereby raises the question of whether others are adding the necessary grains of salt to B’Tselem’s “findings.”

The B’Tselem Witch Trials [Commentary]
Earlier: In an Election Month, Everyone’s a Hack

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Gene says:

To call “Betzelem” a “human rights organization” is a racist and offensive statement. Since this organization defends only Palestinians the logical conclusion from this statement is that only Palestinians are humans and the rest of world’s population are subhumans. Fits very well into the Alfred Rosenberg’s theory about human races.

RZS says:

Marc Tracy doesn’t see anything inherently wrong with B’stelem biases, even though these include Israeli radicals claiming that because the pals are so “oppressed”, the
y, and only they, have the right to “retaliate” in this conflict. Tracy also goes out of his way to defend Tonies Judt and Kushner, despite their despicable views.

But of course any right-of-center figure, from Jeffrey Weisenfeld to Marty Peretz, must be completely eviscerated, without any nuance or regard for their past achievements. The double standards abound. One can only hope that in the future, Tablet mag will view reason and facts above tired hipstery pseudo-intellectualism.

Paul Brandon says:

Of course, the State of Israel itself is funded mainly by European and American groups.

tillkan says:

You talk about biases but have no examples of anything they exposed that did not need exposing. Unless you don’t like seeing the truth exposed. Bingo.

H/Ramat-Gan/Israel says:

tillkan: Let’s start with their common practice of counting terrorists( and in the past even suicide bombers ) as innocent civilian casualties.

For anyone who knows Hebrew here is one example to their malpractice( with links on the left side ):

Jehudah Ben-Israel says:

I am yet to hear or read B’tzelem defending the human right of Jews – we, Jews, are also humans I thought – and especially the very first of all human rights: the right to live and to defend one’s life.

As long as B’tzelem refuses to acknowledge our human rights, I can’t see why it should be taken seriously, but by the Obama/Clinton team, one with deeply rooted hostile attitude towards Israel, its leaders, its institutions and therefore towards the very people whose nation-state Israel is.

Hershel Ginsburg says:

Marc Tracy has never met a left wing organization (and the farther left the better) he didn’t like and / or defend and has never encountered a center-right wing individual, group or organization he didn’t try to put down, silence, or otherwise delegitimize.

For a good summary on B’Tselem with follow on links for more detail (which MT could have found and checked himself were he a tad intellectually honest) see here: .

NGOs like B’Tselem, Peace Now, Breaking the Silence etc., will always “find” Israeli “atrocities” or “malfeasance” for the simple reason that that is how they pay their bills and often times, the fat salaries of its staffers. If they didn’t produce reports condemning Israel, then their raison d’etre would disappear together with all the grants etc., from the EUniks and various & sundry “progressive” church groups etc.

I forget the exact phrasing, but long ago someone pithily observed that an organization will do what is necessary to keep itself in business (the classic example was how the “March of Dimes” transitioned itself from combating polio to birth defects in order that the organization would have a reason to continue to exist). The Israeli “human rights” NGOs are no different.

It would greatly behoove Tablet if it would add a writer to The Scroll who would bring balance to the rather lopsided and dogmatic Tracy.


Efrata / Jerusalem

Jehudah Ben-Israel says:

B’tzelem IS NOT a left wing organization, it is rather simply an anti-Israeli one!


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The Trouble with B’Tselem

‘Commentary’ article alleges bias, wonders why State Dept. doesn’t see it

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