OPT: Two Decades of Achievement - Challenges Ahead

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Dear Friends,

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.

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. To build on our research, we have 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.

Together with the broader human rights community, 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, to name just a few of the tangible changes for the better.

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. Just over a year ago, we established an office in Washington, DC to bring the human rights message both to policymakers and to the Jewish community. This office has already established B'Tselem as the central human rights clearinghouse in Washington. In the coming year we will build on our achievements and expand outreach to communities across the U.S. We are also exploring ways to increase our advocacy in Europe to ensure that human rights are a central part of the multifaceted European-Israeli relationship. In addition, through video, tours, mass advertising and a heightened presence on Israeli internet blogs, we are making the human rights message accessible to the mainstream Israeli public and mobilizing them to join our efforts.

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 your support,

Jessica Montell
Executive Director