B’Tselem donations soar amid furor over settlement criticism
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B’Tselem donations soar amid furor over settlement criticism

Reported 350% surge in private contributions to human rights group comes after MK threatened to strip director of citizenship

Tamar Pileggi is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

B'Tselem director Hagai El-Ad speaks to the UN Security Council on October 14, 2016 (YouTube screenshot)
B'Tselem director Hagai El-Ad speaks to the UN Security Council on October 14, 2016 (YouTube screenshot)

Donations to the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem reportedly have more than tripled in the wake of a firestorm sparked when the organization’s director called on the UN to take action against Israel over its West Bank settlement policies.

The surge in private contributions to B’Tselem in the last month amounts to a 350 percent increase over funds raised by the left-wing organization over previous months this year, according to an Army Radio report Monday.

B’Tselem director Hagai El-Ad sparked fury in Israel last month when he addressed the UN Security Council, denouncing the “invisible, bureaucratic daily violence” that dominates Palestinian life “from cradle to grave,” including Israeli control over entrance and exit from the territories, and farming rights.

His remarks drew fierce condemnation from Israeli politicians, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and coalition chairman David Bitan, who called for El-Ad to be stripped of his citizenship for criticizing Israel at the UN.

Bitan also proposed a bill that would bar Israelis from criticizing the country before international bodies that have the ability to levy sanctions.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (left) and MK David Bitan attend a Likud faction meeting in the Knesset, October 31, 2016. (Miriam Alster/FLASH90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (left) and MK David Bitan attend a Likud faction meeting in the Knesset, October 31, 2016. (Miriam Alster/FLASH90)

However, his bill has garnered very little support, and his call to strip El-Ad of his citizenship was heavily criticized by lawmakers across the political spectrum, who called it undemocratic, ignorant and short-sighted.

In response to the “severe reaction by the Israeli government” to El-Ad’s address, the UN’s special rapporteur on human rights in the Palestinian territories, Michael Lynk, said he would examine the treatment of human rights organizations in Israel.

The US also lent its support to B’Tselem, expressing concern about the threats against the organization, while the European Union delegation to Israel tweeted its support for “B’Tselem to maintain human rights of vulnerable Palestinian communities.”

B’Tselem, along with other left-leaning NGOs in Israel, has been accused in the past of working to undermine Israel’s legitimacy by lobbying international forums.

The organization uses Palestinian photographers and videographers to document the conduct of Israeli soldiers and settlers in the West Bank. In March, one of the group’s volunteers, Imad Abu Shamsiyeh, filmed IDF soldier Sgt. Elor Azaria shooting a disarmed, injured Palestinian in the head after he carried out a stabbing attack in Hebron. That footage sparked nationwide debate over excessive force and IDF values. Azaria is on trial for manslaughter.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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