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B´Tselem Accused of Deception in Annual Report

The B’Tselem human rights group is accused by CAMERA, a media watchdog group, of using deceptive terms and selective omissions to slant the perspective of its annual report on Arab casualties.
By Ezra HaLevi
First Publish: 1/14/2007, 3:00 PM / Last Update: 1/14/2007, 2:52 PM


In its December 28 press release, B'Tselem announced the main findings of its generally anti-Israel annual report: “This past year, we witnessed a deterioration in the human rights situation in the Occupied Territories, particularly in the increase in civilians killed and the destruction of the houses and infrastructure in the Gaza Strip.”

The report itself does not classify those killed as civilians or terrorists, though. It chooses instead to classify Arab casualties as either “Killed when participating in hostilities” or “Did not participate in hostilities when killed.”

CAMERA (The Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America) contacted B’Tselem and was told by spokesperson Sarit Michaeli that this is indeed the group’s policy.

According to CAMERA, until 2002, B’Tselem actually did provide separate lists of those it classified as Palestinian civilians. “In 2003, B’Tselem’s loose definition of the term ‘civilian’ included countless Palestinians who were killed while they were in the process of attacking Israelis, including opening fire at a Bat Mitzvah celebration in Hadera, killing six and injuring 35; setting off bombs; infiltrating Israeli communities and killing or injuring residents; and fighting with Israeli troops,” the CAMERA report states. “B’Tselem has since abandoned that policy – perhaps in face of CAMERA’s criticism – but is the current practice any more credible?”

The media accuracy group reviewed the details of the two most recent months covered by the B’Tselem report. They found that not only were known wanted terrorists included in those supposedly uninvolved in hostilities, but that when conflicting reports existed as to an individual’s involvement, B’Tselem consistently assumed that he was not.

B’Tselem reported, for example, that Muhammad Mahmoud Rajab a-Jarjawi, 19, who was killed Nov. 23 in Beit Lahiya, “did not participate in hostilities when killed.” In fact, the report says he was “killed while on his way home from prayers, which ended at five in the morning.”

The Palestinian Ma’an News Agency (as supplied by BBC Worldwide Monitoring) reported that day, however: “Our Gaza correspondent reported that an Israeli reconnaissance plane launched a rocket at a group of armed Palestinian resistance men who were confronting the invading Israeli tanks east of Bayt Lahiya. One of the men, Muhammad Jarjawi, 19, was killed and many others were injured.”

The report includes armed terrorists in its “did not participate in hostilities” classification. One incident is described as follows (emphasis added): “Muhammad (Eid) Amin Mahmoud Ramaheh, 27-year-old resident of Ein Beit al-Maa Refugee Camp, Nablus district, killed on 14.12.2006 in Ein Beit al-Maa Refugee Camp, Nablus district, by gunfire. Did not participate in hostilities when killed. Additional information: Killed when shot at short range when he ran from his car when an undercover unit tried to arrest him. He was armed.”

The IDF report that day described the incident: “The forces set up a roadblock in order to stop Ramaheh, but when Ramaheh’s vehicle arrived it bypassed the roadblock and collided with another vehicle, injuring a number of civilians. As the forces approached Ramaheh’s vehicle, he and one of his men opened fire at them. The soldiers returned fire, killing the two, who had been armed with an M-16 and a handgun.”

Other information consistently left out of the B’Tselem report includes the membership in terrorist organizations of those killed. The IDF reported that Rahama was a head of Fatah’s Tanzim terror group and was involved in terror attacks and in attempted attacks in the Shechem region.

“B’Tselem can not be relied upon as a trusted source for figures on Palestinian civilian casualties,” the CAMERA report concludes. “Nor can the details it provides on the circumstances of death for Palestinian casualties be considered accurate.”

Click here to read the complete report.