B’Tselem calls itself an Israeli human rights organization, but it has become one of the go-to sources for reporters looking to demonize Israel (Seth J Frantzman, “B’Tselem’s Israel ‘apartheid’ accusation masks its own sinister agenda,” The JC January 14, 2021). It was, therefore, not surprising the group’s latest report accusing Israel of seeking to achieve Jewish supremacy by treating the Palestinians much like white South Africans once victimized blacks would get banner headlines and be reported uncritically. Typical was an article repeating the myth about Israel denying Palestinians COVID vaccines, which gave credence to another big lie by quoting from the report without any response from Israel (Ishaan Tharoor, “Israel’s vaccine success can’t hide a deeper divide,” Washington Post, January 12, 2021).
The inflammatory accusations basically come down to examples of how Palestinians in the disputed territories are treated differently than Israelis without providing any context for those distinctions. B’Tselem cannot say Israel is like white-ruled South Africa because
a) the Palestinians are not a race and
b) Israel does not discriminate them because they are Palestinian.
Instead, the group claims Israeli bigotry is based on nationality and ethnicity even though people of the same ethnicity, Palestinians who are Israeli citizens, are treated equally under the laws of Israel. Nevertheless, In an interview, B’Tselem’s executive director Hagai El-Ad tried to compare Israel to South Africa while simultaneously making distinctions between them. He said, for example, the practice of designating beaches and benches for use only by whites were “petty aspects” of the Afrikaner regime and such signs are “rare” in Israel though he does not present any examples (Masha Gessen, “Why an Israeli Human-Rights Organization Decided to Call Israel an Apartheid Regime,” The New Yorker, January 27, 2021).
The report asserts that Palestinians live “between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea under a single rule.” This is false. More than 90 percent of Palestinians live under the rule of the Palestinian Authority and Hamas. Like other groups that complain about the treatment of Palestinians, B’Tselem is uninterested in the freedoms denied to those Palestinians by their leaders. It also has nothing to say about Palestinian discrimination against Jews exemplified by the crime of selling land to Jews.
Many journalists are equally myopic. In an article about the report, for example, Masha Gessen says Palestinians are forbidden to protest in the territories without a permit as if this is discriminatory. In the United States, protestors usually need permits. In the PA, no protests are allowed unless they are organized or endorsed by the authorities to support their policies.
B’Tselem wants Israel to treat Palestinians in the territories the same way it treats Israeli citizens even though those Palestinians have no desire to be Israelis. B’Tselem may not like it, but to paraphrase an American Express commercial, citizenship has its privileges.
The report says Israel is “Judaizing” the area it controls “based on the mindset that land is a resource meant almost exclusively to benefit the Jewish public.” This is one of many contradictions in the report. If Israel controls the land from the river to the sea, where is the evidence it is “Judaizing” Ramallah, Nablus, Jenin or the other Palestinian towns? If Israel was committed to cement its supremacy over the Palestinians, why did it withdraw from the entire Gaza Strip? How have the towns in Israel populated by Druze, Bedouins, and other Arabs been “Judaized”?
As Seth Frantzman put it, “How can Jews be privileged in Gaza, which is Judenrein, and where an antisemitic terror group is in charge? Are Jews privileged in Ramallah, under a leadership that has pushed Holocaust revisionism and denied the Jewish people’s historic connection to the land of Israel?”
B’Tselem takes for granted that Israel has no claim to the disputed territories. How is it “Judaizing” territories that are historically Jewish?
As Frantzman also notes, rather than Judaization of the territories Israel has offered the Palestinians multiple opportunities for independence. If the Palestinians had not rejected every one, these issues would be moot.
Furthermore, while nearly two million Arabs live in Israel, the Palestinians say their state would, like Gaza, be Judenrein, which doesn’t seem to bother any of Israel’s critics (Noah Browning, “Abbas wants ‘not a single Israeli’ in future Palestinian state,” Reuters, July 29, 2013). Also, why isn’t the same concern raised about the “Palestinianization” of Judaea and Samaria? And has B’tselem considered how Jews would be treated if the Palestinians achieved their objective of being the single ruler from the river to the sea?
B’Tselem admits that Israel allows Palestinian residents of Jerusalem to vote in municipal elections, but leaves out that most choose not to. They acknowledge Palestinian elections have not been held since 2006, but dismiss them as essentially meaningless because Israel “retains major governance” in the territories. That absence of democracy does not trouble B’Tselem. They also ignore the Oslo Accords the Palestinians signed which grant them control over most aspects of the lives of the people living in the Palestinian Authority.
Prof. Eugene Kontorovich also notes that Israelis are not allowed to vote in the Palestinian Authority “because it is a different and independent government – even though it passes laws that greatly affect Israelis, like the “pay for slay” rewards program for terrorists” (Eugene Kontorovich, “Refuting Btselem’s Israel-Apartheid Accusation,” Kohelet Policy Forum, January 13, 2021).
Especially glaring is the omission of any discussion of Israel’s security needs. In fact, the word “security” does not appear in the report. B’Tselem condemns Israel for restricting Palestinians’ movement and using checkpoints without acknowledging they are necessary because of past and ongoing attempts by terrorists to infiltrate Israel. The report gives examples of Israel limiting Palestinians’ movements in and out of the territories but doesn’t mention that prior to the pandemic more than 100,000 worked in Israel.
B’Tselem cites Israel’s Nation-State law as enshrining Jewish “supremacy” as a “binding constitutional principle.” The report repeats both legitimate and illegitimate criticism of the law. As Kontorovich notes, “While the wisdom of the Nation State law can be criticized,” it is nothing like the laws of South Africa “and instead closely resembles numerous European democratic constitutional provisions.”
“Israel’s military rule in the West Bank may be imperfect,” Frantzman acknowledges, “but Israelis and Palestinians will link arms to resist an attempt to impose a single state upon them.”
Kontorovich concludes B’Tselem’s report is not only false and defamatory, it is antisemitic because “it accuses Jews, uniquely among the peoples of the world, of one of the most heinous crimes, while also judging the Jewish state by a metric not applied to any other country.” He adds, “the clear agenda is to entirely delegitimize Israel” and seek not reform but “the abolition of the regime itself and a total reshaping of the government.”
Myths & Facts published at Jewish Virtual Library