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October 23, 2016 2:37 pm

B’Tselem Spreads Anti-Israel Lies at the UN Security Council

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avatar by Naftali Balanson /

The UN Security Council. Photo: Twitter

The UN Security Council. Photo: Twitter

JNS.orgLast week, the Israeli NGO B’Tselem appeared before a special session of the UN Security Council.

The group’s executive director, Hagai El-Ad, demanded “decisive international action” in order to end Israel’s presence in the West Bank.

In an email sent to B’Tselem mailing lists before the appearance, the group bragged, “This is one of the most important diplomatic opportunities in B’Tselem’s history.”

The meeting was not a particularly important diplomatic opportunity, however. Nor was it something to brag about.

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The session, called an “Arria-Formula” meeting, was not an official Security Council event. According to UN materials, Arria meetings are “very informal…held in a conference room, and not in the Security Council Consultation Room.” Most importantly, they “do not constitute an activity of the council and are convened at the initiative of a member or members of the council. Participation in such meetings is for individual members to decide upon, and there have been instances when some members chose not to attend.”

The countries convening this “Arria-Formula” meeting, under the banner of “Illegal Israeli Settlements: Obstacles to Peace and the Two-State Solution,” were Egypt, Malaysia, Venezuela and Angola. (B’Tselem did not indicate whether it would be allowed to operate if it were located in any of those countries.)

Clearly, universal human rights was not the impetus for the meeting. In fact, at the last Arria meeting involving an Israeli NGO Yesh Din, a group that focuses on law enforcement and legal procedures in the West Bank, the anti-Israel vitriol inspired Venezuelan Ambassador Rafael Ramirez to make antisemitic remarks.

B’Tselem, however, was very clear about its desired outcome from the meeting. According to its email, the group sought “resolute international action meant to effect real change and bring an end to the occupation.”

There is nothing B’Tselem would like more than a binding UN Security Council resolution that imposes unfavorable terms on Israel. This would be far easier than real human rights work, such as convincing Israelis that its political agenda is both feasible and in Israel’s best interests.

The truth is that B’Tselem’s greatest diplomatic achievement has been its ability to convince European governments to bankroll its political campaigns. Despite the lack of Israeli support for the group, the European Union, Denmark, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, and Switzerland continue to fund B’Tselem. In 2015 alone, the European Union provided B’Tselem with nearly $1.5 million. The Human Rights and International Law Secretariat (a joint funding mechanism of Sweden, Switzerland, Denmark and the Netherlands) provided another approximately $1 million.

At the end of the day, B’Tselem can self-identify as an Israeli organization; after all, it has offices in Jerusalem. But as the Security Council event shows, with the exception of international audiences such as donors in Europe and repressive regimes at the UN, nobody is listening to B’Tselem.

Naftali Balanson is chief of staff at NGO Monitor.

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