Newsletter from B’Tselem

Last month, the Jerusalem Municipality notified some 40 families from the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Jabal al-Mukabber that it had begun proceedings to demolish their homes, on the grounds that they were built without permits. Since then, dozens of families have received similar notices. This vindictive action – in response to an attack committed by a resident of the neighborhood who killed four soldiers and injured 13 others – forms part of the municipality’s broader policy toward residents of East Jerusalem, a policy of constant harassment in place of fairness and basic municipal services. Obtaining a permit to build a home in the Palestinian neighborhoods of East Jerusalem is a near impossible task.

In the Batan al-Hawa neighborhood of Silwan, also in East Jerusalem, Palestinian suffering is doubled. In addition to longstanding neglect by the municipality, the area is currently the site of the largest expropriation campaign in East Jerusalem. With the help of government ministries and the municipality, the Ateret Cohanim association has filed eviction suits against 81 Palestinian families who have lived in the neighborhood for decades. Settlers have already seized control of 27 housing units, most of which had been home to Palestinian families. Last month we published regular updates on the unbearable reality of life that residents of the neighborhood have been subjected to due to the presence of settlers, who are accompanied by police and Border Police forces, as well as state-funded private guards.

These are just two examples of what is happening now in occupied, annexed East Jerusalem. In these and other cases, Israel is working to impose its control and to harass and expel Palestinian residents of the city. These efforts are relentless. All arms of the state – the Jerusalem Municipality, the police, the State Attorney’s Office, and the courts – are complicit in this shameful process of expropriation. All of us share the obligation to change this reality.

Eyal Sagiv

Data Coordinator

  • Israel destroying Gaza’s fishing sector

Fishing in Gaza has drastically declined due to Israel’s harsh restrictions on access to sea, exporting catch, and importing raw materials. Of only 4,000 registered fishermen, half are out of work as their boats cannot be repaired. Those that work risk being fired at and arrested by the Israeli navy, and having their boats confiscated.

  • Deir Nizam: 2 months of collective punishment after fire in nearby settlement
  • (Blogger note: collective punishment is illegal under International law.)

In late November, a fire broke out near the Halamish settlement, apparently due to arson. Since then, the military has collectively punished nearby Palestinian village Deir Nizam, although its residents were accused of no wrongdoing. The village was placed under a 3-day unofficial closure and movement in and out of it is restricted with roadblocks and patrols.

  • Israeli security forces shoot and kill 17-year-old fleeing from them

In December, Israeli security forces killed Ahmad Hazem ‘Ata Zidani (a-Rimawi), 17, and injured N.R., 25, during a raid in the village of Beit Rima near Ramallah. CCTV footage and B’Tselem’s investigation indicate that while the two had thrown stones, they were not endangering the forces when shot and the firing was unjustified.

  • Not only Umm al-Hiran:  Israel continues to demolish homes in Jordan Valley shepherd communities

Last year saw a massive spate of demolitions in dozens of the poorest, most underprivileged Palestinian communities in the West Bank. Israel appears to be continuing this policy unabated in 2017:

23 Jan.: 13 people, incl. six minors, left homeless in ‘Ein Karzaliyah.
3 Jan.: 29 people, incl. 15 minors, left homeless in Khirbet Tana.
2 Jan.: 78 people, incl. 58 minors, left homeless in Wadi Esneisel and Bir al-Maskub, north of the Ma’ale Adumim settlement.

The aim of these actions is to expel Palestinians from areas that Israel wishes to control, facilitating their annexation in future. Read more on B’Tselem’s special blog, Facing Expulsion.

  • Israel cannot shirk responsibility for Gaza electricity crisis

In January, a financial dispute between the PA and Hamas heightened Gaza’s electricity crisis, and more than 1.5 million residents had power for just 3-4 hours a day. The issue was temporarily resolved, but Gazans continue to suffer severe power shortages for which Israel is directly responsible.

  • Military shoots non-dangerous teen, fails to inform parents of his whereabouts, shackles him in hospital

On 10 November, soldiers shot A.Z., 15, after he threw a stone at their fortified watchtower and began removing sandbags placed there. The military took him to hospital in Israel without informing his parents, where he was held under military guard for four days.

The Washington Post: Israeli settlements grew on Obama’s watch. They may be poised for a boom on Trump’s.

Ynet: B’Tselem ensuring that we don’t lose our humanity

+972: It didn’t have to be this way in East Jerusalem’s Silwan

About B’Tselem

B’TSELEM – The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories was established in February 1989 by a group of prominent academics, attorneys, journalists, and Knesset members. It endeavors 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.

B’Tselem in Hebrew literally means “in the image of,” and is also used as a synonym for human dignity. The word is taken from Genesis 1:27 “And God created humans in his image. In the image of God did He create him.” It is in this spirit that the first article of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that “All human beings are born equal in dignity and rights.”

As an Israeli human rights organization, B’Tselem acts primarily to change Israeli policy in the Occupied Territories and ensure that its government, which rules the Occupied Territories, protects the human rights of residents there and complies with its obligations under international law.

B’Tselem is independent and is funded by contributions from foundations in Europe and North America that support human rights activity worldwide, and by private individuals in Israel and abroad.

B’Tselem has attained a prominent place among human rights organizations. In December 1989 it received the Carter-Menil Award for Human Rights. Its reports have gained B’Tselem a reputation for accuracy, and Israeli authorities take them seriously. B’Tselem ensures the reliability of information it publishes by conducting its own fieldwork and research, the results of which are thoroughly cross-checked with relevant documents, official government sources, and information from other sources, among them Israeli, Palestinian, and other human rights organizations.

Read our English brochure.

(2015 Activity Report, PDF)

The focus on documentation reflects B’Tselem’s objective of providing as much information as possible to the Israeli public, since information is indispensable to taking action and making choices. Readers of B’Tselem publications may decide to do nothing, but they cannot say, “We didn’t know.”


B’Tselem has published scores of reports, some comprehensive in scope, covering most kinds of human rights violations that have occurred in the Occupied Territories. The reports have dealt, for example, with torture, fatal shootings by security forces, restriction on movement, expropriation of land and discrimination in planning and building in East Jerusalem, administrative detention, and settler violence.

Press conferences are often held when a new report is published. In addition, reports often lead to B’Tselem accompanying and assisting journalists reporting on human rights violations, and to other activities intended to affect public opinion in Israel.

Activity in the Knesset

B’Tselem regularly provides Knesset members with information on human rights violations in the Occupied Territories, and injustices caused by Israeli authorities. Several Knesset members, from various factions, assist B’Tselem in placing human rights matters on the public agenda and in safeguarding human rights.

Public action

B’Tselem has hundreds of supporters and volunteers who work to improve the human rights situation in the Occupied Territories. These activities include, in part, setting up information stands, distributing printed material, addressing problems and requests to decision-makers, and participating in protests in the Occupied Territories.

B’Tselem’s contact information

Mailing address: P.O. Box 53132, Jerusalem 9153002, Israel
Fax: 972-3-6177146

Questions and answers

Since its founding, certain questions have repeatedly been asked about the organization, among them:

What does B’Tselem do?

B’Tselem promotes respect for human rights in Israel and the Occupied Territories through a variety of means. We document both specific incidents and systemic problems impacting human rights. We maintain an extensive communication with Israeli authorities to ensure that individual cases are addressed, and to encourage a rethinking of policies that are out of step with Israel’s legal obligations. We conduct first-class research analyzing the full spectrum of human rights concerns. And we use creative public education and advocacy strategies – including pioneering video advocacy – to generate public discussion and foster positive change.

Why is B’Tselem bringing this work to the United States instead of keeping it in Israel?

American foreign policy plays a vital role in shaping Israel’s policies in the Occupied Territories. The debate in the United States is often based on a false dichotomy between Israel’s legitimate security concerns on the one hand, and Palestinians’ basic rights on the other. As an Israeli human rights group, we are uniquely positioned to inform and enrich this debate, providing the facts necessary to evaluate Israeli policy in light of security needs and applicable legal standards. B’Tselem has established a presence in the United States to enable Americans to support a human rights agenda that will protect the rights of Israelis and Palestinians alike, while also strengthening Israel’s civil society and its democracy.

Just as B’Tselem’s work spurs vigorous debate in Israel about the implications of our control over the West Bank and Gaza Strip, so too does B’Tselem aspire to serve as a resource to promote the same healthy debate within the United States. B’Tselem works in the United States to provide accurate, reliable information to policy makers, opinion shapers, and the public alike about the reality on the ground. Our work is guided by the belief that accurate information is indispensable to effective policy making and broadens and informs the public debate that drives it.

Don’t you worry that you are making Israel look bad?

B’Tselem’s primary goal is to ensure that Israel respects human rights in the Occupied Territories and fulfills its obligations under international law. Publicity has often proven effective in improving Israeli policies and for this reason we are obligated to publicize policies that harm human rights and run counter to Israel’s legal obligations. While B’Tselem reports on some of the least attractive aspects of Israeli policy, in doing so we highlight some of the best aspects of Israeli society.  B’Tselem is part of Israel’s vibrant, civil society, working in spite of the difficult security situation to improve our society from within. We are proud to represent this part of Israel to a world which is all too often unaware of it.

What does the word “B’Tselem” mean?

B’Tselem’s work is rooted both in the Jewish tradition and in the universal principles of international law. Its name in Hebrew literally means “in the image of,” and is also used as a synonym for human dignity. The word is taken from Genesis 1:27 “And God created human beings in his image. In the image of God did He create them.” This spirit is echoed in the first article of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: “All human beings are born equal in dignity and rights.”

Does B’Tselem report on all human rights violations in the Occupied Territories, or just those committed by Israelis?

B’Tselem sees international law and human rights norms as universal standards that are equally applicable. All Israelis and Palestinians have equal rights to live in dignity and safety, and Israeli and Palestinian authorities must respect these rights.  B’Tselem monitors and reports on severe violations of human rights by the Palestinian Authority against their own population, as well as on terror attacks against Israelis. Ultimately, though, B’Tselem is an Israeli organization and our primary concern is the actions of the Israeli government and security forces.

Regarding such a politically polarizing issue as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, much of the information that comes out of the region is weighted to favor one side or the other. Why should I trust B’Tselem’s information?

B’Tselem ensures the reliability of its information through independent fieldwork and rigorous research, the results of which are thoroughly cross-checked with relevant documents, official government sources, and information from other sources, among them Israeli, Palestinian, and other human rights organizations. B’Tselem includes responses from the relevant authorities in its reports whenever we get them, so you can evaluate both our findings and those of the government and make your own judgment.

Why don’t you work to protect human rights within Israel?

B’Tselem’s energies are intentionally focused exclusively on violations of human rights within the Occupied Territories, where there is a systematic lack of accountability for ensuring the rule of law that endangers the well-being of the population there and undermines Israel’s image as a country guided by the rule of law. A broad spectrum of other Israeli organizations engage in the important work of addressing human rights issues within Israel.

Where does B’Tselem stand on a two-state solution?

B’Tselem’s primary goal is to promote Israel’s adherence to human rights and international humanitarian law as it applies to Israel’s conduct in the Occupied Territories. We support all policies that would substantially decrease or end the violations of human rights under the Occupation. We do not weigh in on political matters, except to comment on their implications for human rights.

Who funds B’Tselem?

B’Tselem is independent and is funded by contributions from foundations in Europe and North America that support human rights activity worldwide, and by foreign governments, and private individuals in Israel and abroad.


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