B’Tselem Executive Director Hagai El-Ad is worthy of our respect. It was not only his right to make the important and courageous statements he made to the members of the UN Security Council last Friday; it was his duty. The unbridled, near-unanimous attack on him in Israel only shows how low Israeli democracy has sunk under this Likud government, and the danger it faces. The fact that the assault also included members of center-left parties, including Yesh Atid Chairman Yair Lapid and MKs from the Zionist Union, blackens the picture still further.
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El-Ad was invited to take part in the Security Council session discussing the settlements, a meeting Israel boycotted. He showed video footage on the situation in Hebron, house demolitions carried out by Israel, reported on events in the territories and called on the Security Council to take urgent action to bring the occupation to an end.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu responded with a verbal assault on El-Ad, calling his B’Tselem nonprofit a “fleeting and bizarre organization,” and accusing it of joining the “chorus of slander” against Israel.
B’Tselem was established to collect and publish information on human rights violations under the Israeli occupation. It fulfills its obligation diligently and professionally, and even the Israel Defense Forces has used its services more than once. El-Ad’s organization, and others like it, only contribute to Israel’s image in the world as a country in which action is being taken against the occupation.
Israel owes its other image – that of a pariah – to its statesmen and its policies in the occupied territories. It is Netanyahu who is damaging Israel’s image, not El-Ad. Like others on the left, El-Ad believes the world must intervene to end the Israeli occupation, which next year reaches its half century and with no end in sight. That is the logical and obvious conclusion in light of the brainwashing campaign, repression, denial and incitement in Israeli society.
El-Ad’s decision to turn to the most important international body of them all, the UN Security Council, was an obvious step. That organization, under whose aegis the State of Israel was established, must also be the organization that acts to end the occupation. For all its faults, the United Nations is the arena for such international action.
Israel must get used to the fact that it has a minority that fears for its future and moral image, is far more patriotic than the shrill voices of the right wing, but despairs of hope for change within. This minority is not willing to be silent or stand idly by. It is determined to act in every arena to achieve its objective. Its detractors are terrified, because they know that such a move could indeed advance the goal – an end to the occupation. Precisely for this reason, B’Tselem and like-minded groups must continue their mission, steadfastly and without fear.