B’tselem at 20 – a celebration and an appeal
This year, B’Tselem marks twenty years since we began our work to promote human rights in the Occupied Territories. It is a bittersweet milestone. We can be proud of many accomplishments, yet the need for B’Tselem is more pressing than ever. I write to you now asking for your support as we face the many challenges ahead.
I wish we could call it a successful tenure and close our doors; however, our work is far from finished. Among the many pressing issues we confront today:
- Israel refuses to conduct an independent, effective investigation into the very grave allegations regarding its conduct in the Cast Lead military operation in the Gaza Strip.
- The siege on Gaza means that 1.4 million Palestinians are trapped, unable to leave Gaza to obtain medical care, education or reunite with relatives. Israel drastically restricts imports into Gaza. One year after Cast Lead, Gazans still don’t have the construction materials necessary to rebuild their homes;
- Settler violence is on the rise as extremists vent their anger at the government by abusing Palestinians. Security force abuse is also far too common. Whether they are victimized by soldiers or settlers, in most cases Palestinian victims of violence find little redress from Israeli law enforcement authorities.
- Hundreds of Palestinians are being held for months and even years without charge or trial in administrative detention.
There is much work left to be done and we at B’Tselem are building on our strengths and developing new tools to promote human rights. The U.S. administration is a crucial part of our advocacy strategy and I am proud of the achievements of our US office, established by Mitchell Plitnick just one year ago. Mitchell has briefed Congressmen and State Department staff; spoken at conferences, synagogues and universities, provided briefings for the press and at think-tanks, facilitated visits by Israeli human rights experts and established B’Tselem as the central human rights clearinghouse in Washington,
With limited resources, the office has proved the importance of our presence in Washington and I am pleased to announce the addition of Uri Zaki to lead our efforts in Washington. Uri comes to us following a career in Israeli politics: as a senior adviser to Dr. Yossi Beilin, a main spokesperson for the Geneva Initiative, a Chair of Young Meretz, and a candidate in the Meretz list for the 2009 Knesset elections. Uri has a law degree from the Hebrew University and last year was named among Israel’s most prominent young professionals by Forbes Israel magazine. I am confident that together Uri and Mitchell will build on our achievements, expand outreach to communities across the country and ensure that human rights is a central part of the Israeli-American relationship.
Out of our commitment both to universal human rights principles and to Israeli society, B’Tselem works toward a future in which all Israelis and Palestinians will live in freedom and dignity and fully enjoy their rights. In honor of B’Tselem’s twentieth year, I am asking for your generous support of our efforts to advance this vision.
With best wishes and appreciation for joining us in this cause