B'TSELEM - The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories was established in 1989 by a group of prominent academics, attorneys, journalists, and Knesset members. It endeavors to document and educate the Israeli public and policymakers about human rights violations in the Occupied Territories, combat the phenomenon of denial prevalent among the Israeli public, and help create a human rights culture in Israel.
B'Tselem in Hebrew literally means "in the image of," and is also used as a synonym for human dignity. The word is taken from Genesis 1:27 "And God created humans in his image. In the image of God did He create him." It is in this spirit that the first article of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that "All human beings are born equal in dignity and rights."
As an Israeli human rights organization, B'Tselem acts primarily to change Israeli policy in the Occupied Territories and ensure that its government, which rules the Occupied Territories, protects the human rights of residents there and complies with its obligations under international law.
B'Tselem is independent and is funded by contributions from foundations in Europe and North America that support human rights activity worldwide, and by private individuals in Israel and abroad.
B'Tselem has attained a prominent place among human rights organizations. In December, 1989 it received the Carter-Menil Award for Human Rights. Its reports have gained B'Tselem a reputation for accuracy, and the Israeli authorities relate to them seriously. B'Tselem ensures the reliability of information it publishes by conducting its own fieldwork and research, the results of which are thoroughly cross-checked with relevant documents, official government sources, and information from other sources, among them Israeli, Palestinian, and other human rights organizations.
The focus on documentation reflects B'Tselem's objective of providing as much information as possible to the Israeli public, since information is indispensable to taking action and making choices. Readers of B'Tselem publications may decide to do nothing, but they cannot say, "We didn't know."
B'Tselem has published scores of reports, some comprehensive in scope, covering most kinds of human rights violations that have occurred in the Occupied Territories. The reports have dealt, for example, with torture, fatal shootings by security forces, restriction on movement, expropriation of land and discrimination in planning and building in East Jerusalem, administrative detention, and settler violence.
Press conferences are often held when a new report is published. In addition, reports often lead to B'Tselem accompanying and assisting journalists reporting on human rights violations, and to other activities intended to affect public opinion in Israel.
Activity in the Knesset
B'Tselem regularly provides Knesset members with information on human rights violations in the Occupied Territories, and injustices caused by Israeli authorities. Several Knesset members, from various factions, assist B'Tselem in placing human rights matters on the public agenda and in safeguarding human rights.
B'Tselem has hundreds of supporters and volunteers who work to improve the human rights situation in the Occupied Territories. These activities include, in part, setting up information stands, distributing printed material, addressing problems and requests to decision-makers, and participating in protests in the Occupied Territories.
B'Tselem's contact information
8 HaTa'asiya St. (4th Floor),
Questions and answers
Since its founding, certain questions have repeatedly been asked about the organization, among them:
" Why don't you work to protect human rights within Israel?"
B'Tselem is aware of human rights violations within Israel - discrimination against Palestinian citizens of Israel, discrimination against women, problems relating to church and state, and the like - but the population in the Occupied Territories live under military rule and Israel systematically and extensively violates their fundamental human rights. For this reason, B'Tselem decided to concentrate solely on human rights violations in the Occupied Territories.
"Why don't you also defend Israelis?"
Where rights of residents of the Occupied Territories are affected, B'Tselem does not distinguish between Palestinian and Israeli victims. Over the years of the occupation, the Israeli authorities have been guilty of widespread and severe violation of human rights of Palestinians, while at the same time have given preferential treatment to Israeli settlers, whose settlement in occupied territory is itself a breach of international law. Despite this, when Israel violates the rights of Israelis in the Occupied Territories, B'Tselem takes the appropriate actions to attempt to end the violations.
"Why don't you criticize the Palestinian Authority?"
B'Tselem does not distinguish between violations committed by Israel and those committed by the Palestinian Authority. The organization monitors the activities of the Palestinian Authority affecting human rights and deals in its publications with severe violations by the Palestinian Authority. However, as an Israeli organization, the majority of its efforts is directed at violations committed by our government on behalf of all of us.