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March 8, 2015 3:17 pm

Btselem’s Poor Methodology and Credibility

avatar by Jonathan D. Halevi

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B'Tselem "acts primarily to change Israeli policy in the Occupied Territories and ensure that its government...protects the human rights of residents there and complies with its obligations under international law," according to its website. Photo:BTselem.org.

In January 2003, the Israeli human rights organization Btselem, which receives hundreds of thousands of dollars from its sponsor The New Israel Fund, posted on its official website the testimony of Bilal Murtada Muhammad Hafnawi, a 16-year-old high school student from Nablus who accused the Israeli Border Police of extreme brutal behavior against him and his friend, Khaled Hashash.

In his testimony, which was taken by phone by Btselem’s field researcher, Ali Draghmeh, Hafnawi argued that Border Police operatives beat him severely with no reason for a prolonged period of time. The following are excerpts from Hafnawi’s testimony:

“I went to school and when I was about 30 meters away, I saw three big armored vehicles and some army and Border Police jeeps. A Border Police jeep approached me and four armed officers got out. They came up to me and without asking me anything or saying anything, started beating me. They took turns beating me up for about half an hour. They kicked me and beat me all over. They also beat me with their rifles…

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“They threw a brick at me and hit me. They spotted a chickpea vendor’s cart, the owner of which had obviously abandoned it and fled. The soldiers took the cart apart and beat me with the broken pieces of wood. They took the hot water used for boiling the chickpeas and splashed it on me. They beat me until they saw my nose and left leg were bleeding…As a result of the beating I have a rupture in my right hand and bruising all over my body…

“On the way to the hospital, some soldiers who were standing in an iron gate across from the Mukat’a building stopped the ambulance. They made me get out and stand outside in the rain. After about half an hour, one of the soldiers demanded to see my ID. I told him I was a minor and didn’t have one. The soldier slapped me in my face, kicked me and made me fall to the ground. He told me to go home and did not allow me to continue on my way to the hospital.”

Btselem considered Hafnawi’s account indisputable facts. The damning title of the Btselem report reads, “Nablus: Border Police officers beat medical personnel, preventing medical treatment, January 2003.” Btselem did not post any comment of the Police Internal Investigations Department referring to this case or any updates on Bilal Hafnawi that might be relevant to evaluate his credibility.

Btselem described Hafnawi as “a high school student,” and added no further information about him or his political affiliation and connection to terrorist organizations.

During the years 2002-3, Hafnawi the “high school student,” as portrayed by Btselem, was in fact an operative of the Hamas terrorist organization. A year later he changed allegiance to the terrorist organization Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades (Fatah). During this time Hafnawi threw on three occasions Molotov cocktails at military vehicles and a tank, possessed an M-16 assault rifle that was used by senior operatives of al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades and facilitated the manufacturing of IEDs and pipe bombs in his home.

Hafnawi joined the al-Qaeda network in Jordan in 2005, and participated in the planning of a double mass-murder attack in Jerusalem. He was convicted on security charges and served eight years in prison.

This case illustrates once again Btselem’s flawed research methodology and its one-sided and anti-Israeli approach, which cast a dark shadow on its credibility.

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  • Arty Cohn

    Every Arab casualty who was not wearing a uniform, or was not carrying a gun at the time he became a casualty, B’Tselem’s policy is to count him as a civilian.

  • Richard Tessier

    It may very well be that Btselem’s methodology and credibility are “poor”, but I see no proof that the facts Btselem reported show its “one-sided and anti-Israeli approach”.

    The sources on which the author bases its allegations that Hafnawi was “an operative of […] Hamas” seem to be the fact that he (Hafnawi) was convicted, but how does that affect the credibility of Btselem’s account of what the Border Police did to him (and to the ambulance medical personel) on that day in January 2003?

    • Robert Davis

      When a person lied 1000 times you can suppose next one is a lie too. I know this works for everyone except…Israel! this is what you say! What I say is that if btselem said it then it can only be a lie. And those who support such liars are liars too.

  • Lynne T

    Betselem probably gets way more than “thousands of dollars” from NIF. More like hundreds of thousands of dollars.

  • Paul

    How old is this high school student ?

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