Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The B'Tselem Witch Trials

I continue to be offline, sorry for the inconvenience. In the meantime, here's an interesting article about a subject I often write about. Noah Pollak takes a long hard look at B'Tselem.


Barry Meislin said...

Israel refuses to commit suicide.

It must therefore be destroyed.

Thus it has always been.

Thus it will always be.


peterthehungarian said...

Breaking news:

Good to see the moral, intellectual and professional level of the Israeli correspondent of the Guardian in the open.

Nancy Ewart said...

Fascinating article. I've linked it to my FB account and will see if there are any intelligent comments. Any anti-Semitic ones will be deleted. There's too much a forum for that already.

Avigdor said...

Yaacov, have you ever dealt with B'tselem? This is a well-deserved, comprehensive, class A skewering. At the same time, we should know that B'tselem is capable of doing good work.

Two or three years ago, a Palestinian friend called me in tears because their mother was mistreated at the Ram checkpoint in Jerusalem. I don't want to get into the details, but they seemed credible, and way beyond what I thought was acceptable. After listening to this sobbing for a good half hour, I got upset, asked for a description of the soldier and called everyone - border guards, the army, every relevant number I could find online.

I had a very specific description - the soldier was a blonde woman, the only woman at the checkpoint, which was a regular station for her - and the exact time it happened. Surely, I thought, they can find out who was on duty in that place at that time and investigate if they have a pattern of complaints, or at least warn them that their conduct is being reported to their superiors. From the description I got, the situation was so heated the male soldiers had to calm the the female soldier down, as she looked ready to start rifle-butting people. Maybe she is a wonderful person, but clearly she shouldn't be working at a checkpoint.

It was like dealing with Soviet bureaucracy. When I finally got through to someone to file a report I got a total run around. The rotation of the checkpoint guards is classified, and for any investigation, the complaint has to be made by the individual who was harassed. Of course, this person's mother has a pass to enter Jerusalem, and no one can guarantee that the pass won't be revoked the day after she makes a formal complaint. It was a total mess, and I can see why a Palestinian whose economic life depends on being able to enter and leave Jerusalem would rather take the occasional mistreatment rather than jeopardize their hawiyeh.

So, I called B'tselem. Within two days they identified the checkpoint guard and had filed a formal complaint with her superiors without having to involve the Palestinian woman by name. I ended up speaking to Oren Yakobovich at B'tselem about installing cameras at at the major crossing points. At the time, this was in '09, he said they had considered this but didn't have the budget for it.

Anyway, my point is, B'tselem can do good work, and does have a positive impact when they want to do so. This doesn't negate that much of their work is pure propaganda, and their leadership is anything but impartial, as Pollock's article demonstrates. Just my experience...

Silke said...


A Palestinian with a pass in Jerusalem wants to complain by proxy about an Israeli security guard and needs the help of via another proxy of an American from nowhere.

She worked in Israel, she knew nobody there to help and advise her? How come? Pleasant people tend to know all kinds of people willing to help them. I think they used you to make the whole thing seem as big as possible for whatever reason or just so they could spread the bad news.

I don't blame you, I have been tempted to and succumbed often enough into interfering oops helping, only to find out that sometimes it was just the urge to involve an outsider into their matters. I can't really put it into words but invariably afterwards I felt I had been used i.e. afterwards I wasn't more loved or respected by those I helped, rather the opposite.

Rubi said...

Hey, Silke, your speculation skills are awesome! I'm really, really impressed. You would do a great job in tabloid journalism. Have you ever tried?

Silke said...


well not exactly tabloid. I am in all likelihood not good enough and/or not experienced enough for that. I once met a journalist who had worked for the main German tabloid BILD and his ability to come up with headlines was truly awesome.

But I did some journalism about rural get togethers of fire men and farmers' wives clubs and village parties for some time. It was very interesting and I am really glad to have made the experience and have become privy to so many village ins and outs and the instructions of what to write and what to keep mum about.

Also I wrote as a side job press releases for my pretty big employer for quite some time, some 500 or so in all and I was very successful at it if you want to know. Quite a number of the by me portrayed afterwards complimented me on having made them come to life so well.

If you want more details from my very interesting and varied CV just let me know. I'll be happy to oblige provided I happen to feel in the mood at your moment of asking.

Ah and I just remembered, at school when we had to write what in German is called Aufsatz I was lousy, way below my normal level of excellence.

Avigdor said...

Hey Silke,

My Palestinian friend is in the US. Their mother is in the West Bank.

With regards to being manipulated, I have to say that the thought ran through my mind - this Palestinian friend of mine is the best natural propagandist I have ever met (I even have some culture-specific theories why that is) - but the level of detail was considerable, and in any case, would be easy to verify.

I don't think I have to defend my pro-Israel credentials. At the same time, I'm nobody's "ra-ra" fanboy. Not everyone can stay on their best behavior while dealing with thousands of people from a distinctly different culture and mindset under the hot Jerusalem sun. Not everyone has the temperament for it. We shouldn't think that it's an idea situation by anyone's standards. Things happen; messy, unprofessional human things. And when they do, there needs to be some accountability.

Which doesn't mean that checkpoints aren't necessary, or that they don't save lives and all the rest. Where there are problems, however, complaining is the only way to make the system better, more responsive and more humane.

Checkpoints aren't going away, no matter what happens. Even if pigs fly and there is a Palestinian state, much of its labor force will necessarily be exported to the Israeli economy (which is 50x larger than the Palestinian one), which means hundreds of thousands of people crossing an international boundary daily.

Anyway, this was just my two cents personal experience. Sometimes the pro-Israel crowd has a tendency to paint in stark colors. My point was that B'tselem is capable of acting as a check on misbehavior and excess, even while Noah Pollock's blistering column is dead on target.

Silke said...


I am just reading the piece and came across this quote:

“B’Tselem is now opening an office in D.C. because we think that there are two main targets here. One is American policymakers. The other is the Jewish community. And the two are not unrelated, as we have seen in Walt and Mearsheimer’s book.”

Do you know that the W&M piece in March 2006 was my very personal wake-up moment when I knew that "it" was on its way back? No idea what shape it would take, where and how it would break through as a real power and not as an albeit dangerous and potentially bloody nuisance but all the hope that "it" had lost its teeth for good vanished when I read that heinous evil piece of writing and they relate to it, justify themselves by it.

And btw even Hamas is said to do good stuff operating soup kitchens and so on. They all do ... The proverbial bitter saying we have for it in Germany is ... yes but he built the Autobahns

Silke said...

I saw your 2:04 am only now
If I came across as attacking your pro-Israel credentials I apologize from the depths of my heart and can only assure you that the idea never even crossed my mind. If I came across as ever so slightly angry at you for being another one of those bureaucracy is bad advocates there may be a whiff of truth in it.

That is since in the meantime I put myself for a moment in the shoes of those Israeli bureaucrats you ran up against. I think I would have made you run in circles also. Outside interference is never beloved by our kind we are always very distrustful of those especially when they aren't even from the same country.

So even if this particular soldier wasn't fit for checkpoint duty I doubt I would have let you meddle that's just the way we evil "Sesselfurzer" are. I look forward to whether you will be able to jump the hurdle Google translate provides for that one ;-) (clue: divide it and subtract er)

nic said...


your thoughts?

Anonymous said...

What thoughts ?
This is so wrong on so may dimensions.

Since when trespassing is a non violent act ?

I guess the author is perfectly accepting that a crowd of people will invade his house without his permission, while throwing stones if they see any intention to resist their intention.

That is not even considering the many incriminating facts:
1. The message was a belligerent message. "This is our place" - this is no peaceful message.
2. This is a cease fire line any breach of it is an act of war according to International law.

It is just wrong, better be ignored.

Silke said...

the author of the piece M.S. really is a vile one ... and Yaacov still claims the Economist is better than the rest.

Better at slandering, dark insinuations, vile implications, what a dirty disgusting fellow

"Kids throwing rocks ..."

that's all one needs to know to know that the Economist sponsors a Jew-Hater masking as a Zionist critic.