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March 8, 2015 3:17 pm

Btselem’s Poor Methodology and Credibility

avatar by Jonathan D. Halevi


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.

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…

“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…

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“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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