B’Tselem USA, the American arm of Israel’s B’Tselem human rights group, is once again proud of its partnership with J Street, the Israel lobby group that forcefully campaigns against Palestinian human rights and hosts war criminals at its conferences.
In a 24 September email to supporters, shared with me by Uri Horesh, B’Tselem USA announced:
As part of our strategic cooperation with J Street, B’Tselem USA is a participating organization in their national conference entitled “Our Time to Lead,” which will take place in Washington, DC between September 28 - October 1. We are encouraged to know that this conference will feature remarks by US Vice President Joe Biden and many other distinguished partners and allies and proud to share the stage with them.
J Street opposes a broad range of Palestinian human rights. It specifically endorsed US measures to undermine the UN-commissioned Goldstone report into Israel’s 2008-2009 invasion of Gaza and to block any form of justice for Palestinian victims of Israeli war crimes.
Other speakers at the J Street conference include Israeli war crimes suspect Tzipi Livni, who was foreign minister at the time of the 2008-2009 Gaza invasion, and Martin Indyk, the lifelong operative of the Israel lobby group AIPAC who now serves as Obama’s “peace” envoy.
Biden’s support for Israeli war crimes
If Vice President Biden is “distinguished,” it is as part of a US administration that has spared no effort to block any form of Israeli accountability for war crimes and crimes against humanity. These include the ongoing siege of Gaza whose effects continue to devastate the lives of almost 1.7 million people according to the latest UN reports.
As recently as March, Biden boasted in a speech to AIPAC about the Obama administration’s anti-Palestinian efforts, particularly its undermining of the Goldstone report.
The Obama-Biden administration has given unprecedented levels of military aid to Israel, weapons that are directly used to violate the rights of Palestinians and others.
The Obama administration’s own horrifying abuses of human rights, from extrajudicial murders using drones in various countries to force-feeding hunger-striking political prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, ought to be enough for any “human rights” defenders to refrain from expressing such awe at being in the presence of men like Biden.
But this is not the first time B’Tselem has revealed its principles.
B’Tselem director Jessica Montell later claimed that this had been a “mistake.”
Montell said that “B’Tselem has raised grave suspicions regarding serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian law under the Olmert government, specifically regarding Operation Cast Lead in Gaza at the end of 2008 and the beginning of 2009. These suspicions and responsibility for any violations have yet to be adequately investigated and addressed. If asked, we would not have advised featuring Olmert as a speaker.”
Despite this, Montell still had the chutzpah to scold Palestinian human rights groups who had spoken out against B’Tselem’s role in the J Street conference.
B’Tselem now seems to have gotten over its concerns and is once again “proud to share the stage” with war crimes suspects and human rights abusers and opponents.
B’Tselem staff are moderating two panels at the conference. Although it relies on Palestinian fieldworkers to collect information, including videos it promotes intensely, not one of the speakers on the B’Tselem-led panels is a Palestinian.
Advisor opposes Palestinian rights
This is an extraordinary choice for a “human rights” organization given Beinart’s public opposition to full human rights for Palestinians.
In a 2010 interview with Jeffrey Goldberg, a former guard at an Israeli prison for Palestinians, Beinart stated his opposition to Palestinian rights in clear language:
I’m not asking Israel to be Utopian. I’m not asking it to allow Palestinians who were forced out (or fled) in 1948 to return to their homes. I’m not even asking it to allow full, equal citizenship to Arab Israelis, since that would require Israel no longer being a Jewish state. I’m actually pretty willing to compromise my liberalism for Israel’s security and for its status as a Jewish state.
With “advisors” who don’t even expect Israel to treat all its citizens equally, no wonder B’Tselem is “proud” of the criminal company it keeps.