2009 marks B'Tselem's 20th year. In the past two decades, B'Tselem emerged as the gold standard of human rights research, serving as an extremely reliable source of information in a contentious and polarized climate. B'Tselem has developed creative public education and advocacy strategies. B'Tselem's video project pioneered a unique model of citizen journalism, and video has proved effective in reaching new audiences and promoting genuine accountability.
B'Tselem has effected real changes on the ground: ending the routine torture of Palestinians in interrogations; halting punitive house demolitions; driving the domestic and international efforts to reroute the Separation Barrier; and advocating successfully for a prohibition on the use of Palestinians as human shields in military operations.
However, as 2009 draws to a close, our work is far from finished. Among the many pressing issues:
- A year after the Cast Lead military operation in the Gaza Strip, Israel has so far refused to conduct an independent, effective investigation into the very grave allegations regarding its conduct in the operation (see report below).
- 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 lack access to 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.
In 2009, B'Tselem continued its unrelenting efforts to promote human rights protections. Advocacy efforts included: a month-long, high profile campaign using B'Tselem's 20-year anniversary to draw attention to the urgency of the human rights situation in the Occupied Territories; four Internet campaigns on Operation Cast Lead, security force violence, the siege on Gaza, and Road 443, which is barred to Palestinian use; 4 full-length publications, including Guidelines for Israel's Investigation of Operation Cast Lead, and Without Trial: Administrative Detention of Palestinians by Israel; 22 visual articles and films made available online; and 80 study tours and 176 briefings for policymakers, journalists, diplomats, and international organizations.
B'Tselem won the prestigious One World Media Award for our camera distribution project. As the video archive surpassed 2,000 hours, the project expanded into Gaza with a new video blog in which Gazans document their everyday lives under the siege. The blog was hosted on Israel's most visited internet news site, YNet, and covered in the New York Times and other international outlets.
Details of the above activities and landmarks are set forth in the full report.