B'Tselem has pulled it off again, duping the mainstream media into believing it has tallied civilian Palestinian casualties when it has done no such thing. The oft-cited organization bills itself as a human rights group devoted to rigorous documentation of Israeli conduct in the West Bank and Gaza aimed at educating the public and encouraging political action. Yet the so-called documentation continues to be marred by serious flaws that journalists routinely ignore while reporting the group's charges at face value.
B'Tselem, it should be noted, is heavily funded by European entities, including German, British, Irish, Dutch, Danish, Norwegian and Swiss groups, as well as the Ford Foundation and the New Israel Fund.
Among the most deceptive claims by the group are those embedded in its yearly statistical summary of Palestinian fatalities. B'Tselem reported in a Dec. 31, 2007 press release that in 2007 Israeli security forced killed 373 Palestinians and that “about 35 percent of those killed were civilians who were not taking part in the hostilities when killed.” These claims were reported without caveat in the New York Times, Voice of America, the Guardian, and the New York Jewish Week, among others.
Despite the press release's statement about the percentage of those killed who were civilians, B'Tselem's data do not actually break down Palestinian casualties according to civilians or combatants. In most but not all cases, the organization's detailed list of Palestinian casualties classifies each person as “Killed when participating in hostilities” or “Did not participate in hostilities when killed.” Clearly, those in the latter category are not necessarily civilians, as a terrorist could be killed while, for instance, not directly in the process of planting a bomb or shooting a soldier. Moreover, B'Tselem almost never includes any reference to terrorist affiliations of Palestinian casualties, making it impossible for readers to know who was genuinely a civilian and who was not.
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The Peace Now organization and activists Hagit Ofran and Dror Atkis must pay residents of Judea and Samaria and issue a public apology, Jerusalem Magistrates Court judge Yechezkel Barclay ruled Thursday. The group was punished for a false report involving the town of Revava.
Peace Now, Ofran and Etkes were sued for damages caused by a report published two years ago. In the report, titled “A sin leads to another sin,” (Aveira goreret aveira in Hebrew), Peace Now argued that most Jewish towns in Judea and Samaria were built on land stolen from local Arabs. Among other things, the report said 71.15 percent of the land on which Revava was built was stolen from Arabs.
"The Fund for Redeeming the Land,” which legally owns 100 percent of the territory on which Revava is built, demanded that Peace Now correct its false report regarding Revava and issue an apology. The group refused to apologize, as did the authors of the report. The authors agreed to only partially correct the mistaken claim regarding Revava, changing the report to say 22 percent of the land was stolen, not 71 percent.
When Peace Now refused to apologize, the Fund sued the organization with the help of Attorney Doron Nir Tzvi. The group charged Peace Now and authors Ofran and Etkes with slander.
The court found the three defendants guilty. Besides ordering them to apologize, Justice Barclay ruled that they must pay the Fund for Redeeming the Land 20,000 shekels plus tax. The group's apology must be public, and must be published in both Maariv and Haaretz.
"The time has come to end the serial lies issued by various leftist groups,” Attorney Nir Tzvi said following the court's decision. “The public should doubt any report they write.” Nir Tzvi called on Jews living in Judea and Samaria to “stand up for their good name” when facing false accusations from groups like Peace Now.