B’Tselem’s Executive Director testifies at the UN Security Council

B’Tselem’s Executive Director testifies at the UN Security Council

Written by Hagai El-Ad, Executive Director, B’Tselem

The past week, since I spoke out on behalf of B’Tselem, calling the United Nations Security Council to act now to prevent another fifty years of occupation, was a dramatic one for the organization. I’d like to briefly update you regarding recent developments.

The Israeli Government’s reaction, predictably, was swift and harsh. Prime Minister Netanyahu set the tone by inciting against B’Tselem on Facebook and threatening legislation to deny us national service volunteers – an act of political vengeance. A litany of Israeli politicians followed suit.

Past experience has, unfortunately, fully prepared us for the social media backlash that followed, and though it is sad to see the hundreds of extremely hateful messages I personally and B’Tselem received, many including death threats, we know that the real culprits are politicians who incite, not ordinary Israelis who respond. The worst example being the dozens of comments calling for B’Tselem to be tried as traitors, exiled and much worse, left untouched on the PMs Facebook page. We are, however, taking these matters seriously.

Intense public debate ensued inside Israel, on mainstream and social media. Much of it revolves around the mere legitimacy of B’Tselem’s appearance in front of an international body – which we categorically defend as not only our right but our moral duty as Israelis. I invite you to read an article we published outlining our motivations. However, this move has also generated much public debate on the issue of Israel’s occupation itself – soon to reach its fiftieth year – and we continue to focus on this core matter, in our subsequent media and communications work. This is probably the most inspiring and welcome result of our UN appearance.

Additionally, we have been heartened yet again by the outpouring of support from Israelis and Palestinians, and by the five-fold increase in the number of Israelis who made small but much appreciated donations to B’Tselem – many of them declaring this on social media. We are also extremely encouraged by the statements of support from the US State Department, the European Union Delegation, by fellow human rights defenders and civil society groups in Israel and abroad, and by our many friends and partners in the struggle against the occupation.

We were unable, quite yet, to personally respond to many of the emails and expressions of support which we have received over the last week. Please know that we were moved by each and every of these, and are deeply thankful – and we’ll do our best to respond within the coming week.

This solidarity has empowered us during a challenging time, and assures us that we have taken the right step, in spite of the backlash. This is one of the most important diplomatic actions in B’Tselem’s history, and it is entirely due to 27 years of professional, meticulous hard work by B’Tselem staff both past and present, by board members and by volunteers.

Click here to see the video and read the transcript of Hagai El-Ad’s testimony.

Click here to read a Ha’aretz (an Israeli newspaper) editorial, “We Are All B’Tselem Head Hagai El-Ad.”