Latest update: December 12th, 2012
Ali Abunimah, co-founder of The Electronic Intifada, does not forgive betrayal easily, especially when it comes from left-wing Israeli and Jewish-American organizations. Which is why he is such a wonderful source of information on groups who have made it their life’s mission to point fingers at the behavior of others. In this case – B’Tselem.
First, for readers who need it, the Wiki: B’Tselem (Hebrew for “in the image of,” as in Genesis 1:27) is an Israeli, non-governmental organization that calls itself “The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories.” Founded in 1989, its official goals are “to document and educate the Israeli public and policymakers about human rights violations in the Occupied Territories, combat the phenomenon of denial prevalent among the Israeli public, and help create a human rights culture in Israel.”
And while on its face (disregarding the “occupation” jargon) it’s not necessarily such a bad thing to have someone alert the public on illegalities anywhere, NGO Monitor has suggested that B’Tselem, from its inception, has been focusing only on the things Jews do, to the point of willfully subverting the truth: “B’Tselem has faced serious criticism for its misrepresentations of international law, inaccurate research, and skewed statistics (including casualty lists). Relies on statistics and reports of other NGOs, despite the political agendas and credibility problems of these other groups.” The same website offers a long list of such misrepresentations of the truth.
But that kind of dishonesty never bothered Ali Abunimah, whose website engages daily in exactly those kinds of misrepresentations. He lost it, however, when it came to the upcoming J Street Conference, which will feature as keynote speaker the man who didn’t meet a law he didn’t find as way to subvert, disgraced former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.
In the Electronic Intifada narrative, Olmert is “responsible for extensive war crimes including during Israel’s 2006 war on Lebanon and its 2008-2009 attack on the Gaza Strip. Thousands of people were killed in the occupied Palestinian territories and Lebanon by Israeli forces during Olmert’s term of office.”
And so, Ali Abunimah demands: “B’Tselem USA should withdraw its sponsorship of this politically biased conference whose goal is to whitewash Israeli war crimes, if it is to maintain any credibility as a human rights organization.”
Yes, yes, metaphors involving kettles and frying pans do come to mind, but wait, it gets even better.
On March 19, the blog “I’m an alien, I’m a legal alien” run by Uri Horesh, published an email from Jessica Montell, Executive Director of B’Tselem, who wrote him:
In fact, B’Tselem is not a sponsor of the J Street conference. This was a mistake in the e-mail and will be corrected later today. We are a participating organization, and are very glad to be part of a long list of Israeli and American groups participating in J Street and dedicated to pursuing a different and better reality for Palestinians and Israelis alike… Aside from organizing this panel, B’Tselem was not involved with any other aspects of the conference, including the decision to feature former PM Olmert.”
And, indeed, when you check the B’Tselem website, they’ve revised their own history with the same dedication they’ve been revising everybody else’s, and their now scrubbed announcement reads: “B’Tselem USA is a participating organization in the J St Conference.”
But Ali Abunimah has the goods, because he, apparently, received the original email from Rachel Sussman, Associate Director of B’Tselem USA:
B’Tselem USA is proud to be a sponsor of J Street’s third annual conference, Making History, in Washington later this month. J Street is the political home for pro-Israel, pro-peace Americans. The conference will feature former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Israeli writer Amos Oz, a member of B’Tselem’s Public Council, journalist Peter Beinart, a member of B’Tselem USA’s Advisory Council and Anat Hoffman, the Executive Director of the Israel Religious Action Center.
Not only did they not see anything wrong in having Olmert speak at the conference, heck, they were delighted to have him there, ensconced among the members of their own advisory council.
Now poor Jessica Montell received, on March 19, an outraged email from Raji Sourani, Director of the Palestinian Center for Human Rights: “I am writing to express my extreme shock and disappointment regarding B’Tselem’s announcement as a ‘proud sponsor’ of an event in the US with Ehud Olmert.”
On March 20, the Palestinian Center for Human Rights issued the demand: “We call upon B’Tselem to withdraw from this event, and to use this opportunity to highlight the need for accountability, justice, and the enforcement of the rule of law.”
About the Author: Yori Yanover has been a working journalist since age 17, before he enlisted and worked for Ba'Machane Nachal. Since then he has worked for Israel Shelanu, the US supplement of Yedioth, JCN18.com, USAJewish.com, Lubavitch News Service, Arutz 7 (as DJ on the high seas), and the Grand Street News. He has published Dancing and Crying, a colorful and intimate portrait of the last two years in the life of the late Lubavitch Rebbe, (in Hebrew), and two fun books in English: The Cabalist's Daughter: A Novel of Practical Messianic Redemption, and How Would God REALLY Vote.
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