False Alarm

NGO sensationalizes false narrative of Israeli ‘Apartheid’ to keep donor taps running

By Shaun Sacks

Last Wednesday, January 21, 2021, Eyewitness News  – a South African multi-platform news publisher (EWN) – ran an AFP story that again amplified the “Apartheid” smear campaign against Israel.

The latest installment to the “Israeli Apartheid” canard was credited to the “Israeli rights group” B’Tselem, whose analysis the AFP refers to as “hard-hitting.” However, neither the newswire service nor EWN saw fit to include any opposing point of view in their report.

From its initial headline, EWN misleads its readers by ignoring or knowingly disregarding facts that do not suit its preconceived narrative of Israel.  By referring to B’Tselem simply as “Israeli”, AP and EWN conceal the fact that almost two-thirds of B’Tselem’s budget comes from foreign [i.e., non-Israeli] governmental bodies. 

B’Tselem and many other NGOs annually take in millions in government contracts for “human rights” work. These NGOs then report back to their donors about the continued deterioration of human rights in Israel and the Palestinian territories, consequently asking donor governments for additional funds. This circular funding system ensures that B’Tselem and many NGOs like it remain well-financed and disproportionately vocal, despite their marginal role within Israeli society. Based on financial information submitted to the Israeli Registrar of Non-Profits, B’Tselem’s income from foreign governments between 2016 and 2020 was over 14.5 million US dollars. This is in excess of R200 million, a staggering amount of money for a “rights organization.”

Inflaming Passions. An assault on Israel’s internationally respected Supreme Court depicting it as an instrument of suppression in this B’Tselem publication.

Even more troubling is that this exorbitant amount of money has, by B’Tselem’s own admission, been spent on objectives that were not achieved.  Despite receiving millions of dollars in government contracts to improve human rights, B’Tselem can now claim that they will need millions more because, in their words, “A [human rights] threshold has been crossed.”

In any other field, one may ask why programs that by their own admission do not achieve results should continue to receive funding. In the case of the Arab-Israeli conflict, however, human rights NGOs like B’Tselem are immune to criticism and will perpetually receive government funds as long they continue to fail.

B’Tselem publications are geared to foreign audiences, whether in South Africa or the United States, or Europe which supplies the majority of its budget. Its latest announcement, timed to coincide with the inauguration of President Biden, appears designed to latch on to trends in American politics. In declaring Israeli Apartheid, B’Tselem appear to be appealing to the more liberal policies of the new administration, but it also employs antisemitic language of “Jewish supremacy,” recalling the title of former Ku Klux Klan grand wizard David Duke’s 2002 book “Jewish Supremacism: My Awakening on the Jewish Question.”

As with its latest publication, B’Tselem has a habit of first finding Israel guilty, and only then defining the crime and preparing information to suit its predetermined conclusion. 

For example, in order to justify its Apartheid label, B’Tselem chooses to reclassify Israelis citizens into various categories. It then claims that Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza are disenfranchised – not because the PA has refused to hold elections since 2006 – but rather because Israel has not ceded sufficient responsibilities to the PA.  It is difficult to understand how the delineation of responsibilities and rights, mutually negotiated and agreed to by the internationally recognized Oslo agreements, is proof of “Apartheid.”  Moreover, it ignores the fact that the governing body in Area A of the West Bank is the PA and Hamas in Gaza.

Fingering Falsehood. A typically contrived B’Tselem poster portraying Israel as an Apartheid and injudicious Middle East superpower.

Media outlets enjoy amplifying sensational stories, and for reasons that are never fully explained, reports of Israeli wrongdoings, regardless of their factual veracity, are always sensational. NGOs like B’Tselem, which cannot appeal to their achievements for funding, now rely instead on sensationalism to keep their funding cycle going.

About the writer: 

Shaun Sacks immigrated to Israel from South Africa in 1998. He received his BA from Bar Ilan University. Before joining NGO Monitor as a Senior Researcher, Shaun was the Senior Project Manager for NETSOURCE, an Israeli firm that specializes in providing technology employment opportunities to Ultra-Orthodox communities, and emerging market manager for McAfee Inc.

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