B'TSELEM - The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories was established in February 1989 by a group of prominent academics, attorneys, journalists, and Knesset members. It endeavors to document and educate the Israeli public and policymakers about human rights violations in the Occupied Territories, combat the phenomenon of denial prevalent among the Israeli public, and help create a human rights culture in Israel.
B'Tselem in Hebrew literally means "in the image of," and is also used as a synonym for human dignity. The word is taken from Genesis 1:27 "And God created humans in his image. In the image of God did He create him." It is in this spirit that the first article of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that "All human beings are born equal in dignity and rights."
As an Israeli human rights organization, B'Tselem acts primarily to change Israeli policy in the Occupied Territories and ensure that its government, which rules the Occupied Territories, protects the human rights of residents there and complies with its obligations under international law.
B'Tselem is independent and is funded by contributions from foundations in Europe and North America that support human rights activity worldwide, and by private individuals in Israel and abroad.
B'Tselem has attained a prominent place among human rights organizations. In December 1989 it received the Carter-Menil Award for Human Rights. Its reports have gained B'Tselem a reputation for accuracy, and Israeli authorities take them seriously. B'Tselem ensures the reliability of information it publishes by conducting its own fieldwork and research, the results of which are thoroughly cross-checked with relevant documents, official government sources, and information from other sources, among them Israeli, Palestinian, and other human rights organizations.
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The focus on documentation reflects B'Tselem's objective of providing as much information as possible to the Israeli public, since information is indispensable to taking action and making choices. Readers of B'Tselem publications may decide to do nothing, but they cannot say, "We didn't know."
B'Tselem has published scores of reports, some comprehensive in scope, covering most kinds of human rights violations that have occurred in the Occupied Territories. The reports have dealt, for example, with torture, fatal shootings by security forces, restriction on movement, expropriation of land and discrimination in planning and building in East Jerusalem, administrative detention, and settler violence.
Press conferences are often held when a new report is published. In addition, reports often lead to B'Tselem accompanying and assisting journalists reporting on human rights violations, and to other activities intended to affect public opinion in Israel.
Activity in the Knesset
B'Tselem regularly provides Knesset members with information on human rights violations in the Occupied Territories, and injustices caused by Israeli authorities. Several Knesset members, from various factions, assist B'Tselem in placing human rights matters on the public agenda and in safeguarding human rights.
B'Tselem has hundreds of supporters and volunteers who work to improve the human rights situation in the Occupied Territories. These activities include, in part, setting up information stands, distributing printed material, addressing problems and requests to decision-makers, and participating in protests in the Occupied Territories.
B'Tselem's contact information
Mailing address: P.O. Box 53132, Jerusalem 9153002, Israel