NGO Monitor: B'Tselem Report Reflects Political Agenda, European Funding

Published: July 6th 2010
in News » Israel

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu arrives at the White House to meet with U.S. President Barack Obama on July 6, 2010 in Washington, DC
Pic: Olivier Douliery/Abaca Press/MCT
Prof. Gerald Steinberg
Pic: YouTube

Only several hours before the meeting between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Barack Obama, B’Tselem released a new report regarding Israeli settlements in the West Bank. The report was acquired by the media several days before the meeting but most outlets have adhered to the NGO’s request not to publish it until today.


In the report entitled By Hook and by Crook: Israeli Settlement Policy in the West Bank, B’Tselem analyzes what it claims is the mechanisms used by Israel to gain control of lands in the West Bank for the purpose of settlements. The report is based on official state reports by army, the Civil Administration, and the State Comptroller reports among others.


According to the official data, B’Tselem claims, over one-fifth (21 percent) of the areas built up by settlements is land officially recognized by Israel as private Palestinian land. In its press release, B’Tselem said on this issue: “Some 66 percent of the settlements' built-up areas are "state land". Allocation of this land for settlements was only possible through a manipulative interpretation of all relevant laws in force in the West Bank.”


The report also claims that despite Israel’s undertaking to freeze settlement construction as part of the implementation of the Road Map, settler population increased by 28 percent until the end of 2009. B’Tselem claims this is not due to the birth rate but due to migration from inside Israel – this according to figures released by the Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics. Furthermore, states the report, Israel provides benefits and incentives to encourage Israelis to move into settlements, including financial benefits.


Finally, the report claims that the “settlement enterprise” is illegal under humanitarian law and infringes the human rights of the Palestinians. “B'Tselem repeats its demand that the Israeli government evacuate all the settlements, in a manner that respects the settlers' human rights, including the payment of compensation,” said the press release.


The report and in particular the timing of its publication have been criticized. Prof. Gerald M. Steinberg, President of NGO Monitor, made four points of criticism on this issue: The first is that B’Tselem, by releasing this report, is “removing the facade of a "human rights" organization to reveal its core political objectives focusing on opposing Israeli government policy.” Steinberg added that there is nothing wrong with opposition politics but that B’tselem's opposition “is being financed and supported by European governments.”


Steinberg’s second point speaks of the timing of the report and says that it is “clearly designed to have maximum media attention during the Netanyahu/Obama meeting”. Third, said Steinberg, the claims made by the report, particularly those which speak of international law, lack credibility. Steinberg added that the “complexities of history, including Arab warfare and rejection, are erased”.


Finally, Steinberg said that Palestinians are defined in the report as victims incapable of speaking for themselves. This is similar to other NGOs that use the same language, claimed Steinberg.


Related articles: (BTselem, Gerald Steinberg, Settlements, Palestinians)
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