B’Tselem defends Security Council invite to expose ‘reality’ of West Bank

B’Tselem defends Security Council invite to expose ‘reality’ of West Bank

Rights group’s leader, accused by Israel’s UN envoy of collaborating with country’s enemies, says situation ‘not an internal Israeli matter’

Hagai El-Ad, executive director of B'Tselem, at a press conference in Tel Aviv, February 5, 2016. (AFP/Jack Guez)
Hagai El-Ad, executive director of B'Tselem, at a press conference in Tel Aviv, February 5, 2016. (AFP/Jack Guez)

Left-wing human rights group B’Tselem defended its upcoming appearance at a UN Security Council meeting, pushing back against Israel’s envoy and saying the world should be exposed to what is happening in the West Bank.

“I am going to talk about the reality in the territories,” the group’s executive director Hagai El-Ad said, referring to the West Bank, after UN Ambassador Danny Danon accused his organization of “cooperating with Israel’s enemies.”

El-Ad was invited by Bolivia, currently presiding over the Security Council, to represent Israeli civil society in a periodic session, on the state of the Middle East conflict on October 18. It will be the first time the group speaks to an official Council meeting, though it has presented to members informally in the past.

B’Tselem, which uses Palestinian photographers and videographers to document the conduct of Israeli soldiers and settlers in the West Bank, has often drawn the ire of the Israeli government.

“I haven’t seen a single fact we presented abroad refuted,” El-Ad told Hebrew-language media. “We want the international community to do something differently here.”

He added that what happens in the West Bank “is not an internal Israeli matter — the whole world follows.”

Footage showing a bruised Palestinian being escorted by IDF soldiers after being assaulted by Breaking the Silence spokesman Dean Issacharoff in March 2014. (Screen capture/B’Tselem)

B’Tselem also issued a statement, saying that it “will continue to document the reality of occupation which the government is trying so hard to conceal. It will do so this week as well, when Israel plans to commit the war crime of destroying the community of Khan al-Ahmar and expelling its residents. Withholding political rights from millions of people and holding them under military rule for generations is not an internal Israeli matter, it’s a clear international issue.”

Khan al-Ahmar, a Bedouin village in the West Bank, is set to be evacuated and razed by Israeli authorities in the coming days, despite international outcry. Israel says the hamlet is built illegally on state land and wants to move the residents elsewhere.

Danon’s office slammed the decision to invite B’Tselem Saturday, and promised to expose the “incitement and lies” of both Palestinians and B’Tselem.

Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations Danny Danon attends a UN Security Council on May 15, 2018, at UN Headquarters in New York. (AFP PHOTO / HECTOR RETAMAL)

“B’Tselem, which has proved in the past that it cooperates with Israel’s enemies, is doing it this time with a nation that has called IDF soldiers ‘murderers.’ This is not only shameful for the organization but a crossing of red lines by foreign countries with an anti-Israeli agenda,” Danon said.

El-Ad sparked fury in Israel over his 2016 appearance at a Security Council session on Israel’s settlements, during which he urged the UN to take action against the Jewish state’s settlements, and denounced 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.

“With every breath they take, Palestinians are breathing in occupation,” El-Ad said then.

El-Ad’s remarks drew fierce condemnation from Israeli politicians, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who vowed he would bar national service volunteers from working with the left-wing human rights organization.

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

In 2017 El-Ad told a conference at the UN marking “50 years of occupation,” that Israel tries to minimize international criticism of its West Bank policy by labeling it anti-Semitic.

“Palestinians who oppose the occupation are terrorists, Israelis who oppose the occupation are traitors, and those in the international community who oppose the occupation are of course anti-Semitic,” El-Ad said.

In April Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman said he had asked the attorney general to investigate the leaders of the group for calling on Israeli soldiers to refuse orders to open fire at Palestinian protesters during clashes on the border with the Gaza Strip.

He was referring to advertisements that B’Tselem took out in Hebrew-language newspapers, at the start of the now-regular border protests, in which the group urged Israel Defense Forces soldiers to refuse to fire their weapons at unarmed protesters.

“This subversive and marginal organization, together with haters of Israel and the international media, are trying to delegitimize our soldiers, whose behavior is both legal and moral in an extremely complex situation,” Liberman said. “We will put an end to this.”

The organization lashed out in response, saying Liberman himself was guilty of incitement by demanding that soldiers carry out a manifestly illegal order.

JTA contributed to this report.

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