Opinion

The Real Hero Is the B’Tselem Chief

On the day the world realizes that the UN ambassador is Israel and Hagai El-Ad represents a muzzled minority, maybe its forgiving attitude toward Israel will change

B'Tselem director Hagai El-Ad.
Tomer Appelbaum

Who contributes more to Israel’s status in the world, UN Ambassador Danny Danon or B’Tselem director Hagai El-Ad? Who generates more respect, the diplomat or the human rights activist? Which of the two disgraced Israel with his words and who retained some of its humane image? Who told the truth and who lied? Whom does the world believe – excluding Nikki Haley, the only true collaborator in the hall – and whom can the no world no longer believe?

They sat opposite each other at the Security Council – two Israelis of the same age, born here, army veterans, with totally different worldviews and conflicting moral standards. Their values are contradictory and their information on what’s happening under the occupation is divergent. One relies on the lies of Israel’s propaganda machine while the other’s views are based on the investigative efforts of an organization whose work couldn’t be more reliable and professional.

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El-Ad reminded the world of something the world still clings to, the belief that there is still a difference between Israel and Saudi Arabia. Danon tried to erase the difference with his pitiful response: “IDF soldiers protect you and you come here and slander them. You should be ashamed, collaborator.”

Danon is a faithful representative of the majority in Israel. His appearances are important – he reminds the world that the illusion of the “only democracy in the Middle East” must be dispelled. On the day the world realizes that Danon is Israel and El-Ad represents not just a negligible minority but one muzzled by an aggressive majority, maybe its forgiving attitude toward Israel will change.

The reactions in Israel only intensified the damage wrought by Danon. Not only the right pounced on El-Ad with viciousness – the center-left took part in the fascist revelry as well. There was Yair Lapid, as could only be expected. There were Zionist Union Knesset members such as Ayelet Nahmias-Verbin (“these are one-sided texts deserving every condemnation”) and Eitan Cabel (“hateful words and an abomination”). Their words attested to the urgency of dispensing with this party and its rotting ideas. None of their colleagues came to El-Ad’s defense – how shameful. There is no alternative to the rule of the right.

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El-Ad showed the truth – naked, ugly and disturbing. Anyone calling him a snitch actually admits to this truth and is ashamed of it. It’s not only El-Ad’s right to behave this way, it’s his obligation. The occupation is not and cannot be an internal Israeli matter. The abuse of people without rights under a military tyranny in occupied territory is an international crime.

Anyone seeing these crimes must report them to the authorities. If you see a man striking a woman or abusing a child or some other helpless creature, you have an obligation to report it to the police. If you see a tyrannical government abusing another nation for decades, killing, destroying, causing hunger, imprisoning people and blocking medical aid, you are obliged to report this to the United Nations, to The Hague and to other international institutions.

El-Ad fulfilled his civic and moral duty. The chorus of his detractors knows this, which is why it’s so vicious and strident. If Danon really believed his own hollow speeches at the United Nations, he wouldn’t be alarmed at one Israeli speaking out differently. But Danon and Cabel, Benjamin Netanyahu and Miri Regev know that not one word in the restrained and to-the-point speech by El-Ad wasn’t truthful. This is why their reaction was so aggressive.

El-Ad was modest, as is his wont. He said he was no traitor or hero; the Palestinians are the true heroes. He’s right, of course. Every demonstrator along the Gaza border is far more courageous than any Israel sniper shooting him from a distance. Every shepherd at the Bedouin village of Khan al-Ahmar exudes more justice than the entire chorus of those attacking B’Tselem.

But El-Ad too is a hero; he’s the ambassador of Israel as it should be, a public relations officer of an alternative Israel, a beautiful and just one. Now we have to be concerned about his safety. He has been marked as a target and must wear a bulletproof vest. If he comes to harm we’ll remember those who are to blame: Not just people on the right, but also the sanctimonious hypocrites on the center-left – Lapid, Cabel and Nahmias-Verbin, the spokespeople of Israel’s shameful and imaginary opposition.