The speech delivered by B’Tselem executive director Hagai El-Ad at the UN Security Council Oct. 14 generated a political storm last week in Israel. While the angry responses did not surprise anyone, bad timing contributed to the public furor: The speech was delivered only 24 hours after UNESCO passed a resolution that denies the connection of the Jewish people to the Temple Mount and the Western Wall in Jerusalem.
Between the lines, in his reactions to the speech, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu compared the B’Tselem activists to traitors and threw all the Israeli human rights organizations to the dogs. But beyond Netanyahu’s anger and his irresponsible attacks against B’Tselem, El-Ad’s speech raised all the main issues that concern Israeli society regarding these organizations. Is it legitimate for Israeli sources to express criticism of the occupation and the enlarging of settlements in an international forum? Have the organizations’ key activists crossed redlines in their human rights activities and entered the domain of governmental political activity? And finally, are the organizations investing their efforts on the global front because they have lost all hope of generating change in Israeli public opinion?