Betselem (alternately "B'Tselem"), which dubs itself "The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories," was established in 1989 by a group of academics, attorneys, journalists, and Knesset members. Betselem in Hebrew literally means "in the image of," and is taken from Genesis 1:27, which reads, "And God created humans in His image. In the image of God did He create him."
In Betselem's view, the state of Israel egregiously violates the injunction to treat people—in this case, the Palestinians, as though they were fashioned in the image of God. Therefore, Betselem's mission is "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."
Toward this end, Betselem produces a large number of reports, published in both Hebrew and English, condemning Israel's purported human rights abuses. Originating from the West Bank and Gaza Strip, these reports are regularly cited by international NGOs such as Amnesty International, Christian Aid, Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network, Human Rights Watch, and MIFTAH, as well as numerous Palestinian NGOs. Among the specific topics the reports address are the Separation Barrier under construction by Israel; the "Road Map to Peace"; Israeli medical personnel accused of being unresponsive to, and disrespectful of, Palestinians in need of their services; Israel's "punitive house demolitions"; "restrictions on movement" that prevent Palestinians from traveling freely; and Israeli "security force violence." In each case, Betselem's allegations of Israeli transgressions entirely ignore the context established by Palestinian terrorism.
To further disseminate its message, Betselem works extensively with the media, issuing press releases, accompanying journalists into the field, and giving interviews on the aforementioned topics -- efforts that have landed the organization's spokespeople hundreds of citations and appearances in the local and foreign press. Betselem also provides periodic updates to local policymakers and diplomats "on human rights developments in the Occupied Territories," and gives presentations to visiting foreign policymakers and delegations from around the world.
In contrast to other human rights NGOs that are based outside of Israel and thus have limited knowledge of the situation on the ground, Betselem is situated in Israel and its researchers speak both Hebrew and Arabic. The organization has a trilingual website that receives more than 1,500 visitors per day, and transmits a monthly email newspaper to some 8,500 subscribers.
Also in 2003, Betselem launched a major campaign against what it termed Israel's "siege policy," aiming to "raise awareness among the Israeli public and policymakers about the devastating effects of the checkpoints and roadblocks inside the West Bank."
The following year, Betselem released a music video titled "Eyes Wide Open," featuring performances by popular Israeli entertainers as a backdrop to film footage of alleged Israeli abuses that had occurred at West Bank roadblocks and checkpoints. Moreover, to coincide with the release of "a report on Israel's policy of punitive house demolitions," Betselem produced a video chronicling how Israel's demolition policy had harmed innocent children. More than 30,000 people viewed each of these videos on the Betselem website, and thousands more saw them in movie theaters across Israel.
In 2005 Betselem released four publications denouncing alleged Israeli injustices. They were titled: (a) Under the Guise of Security: Routing the Separation Barrier to Enable the Expansion of Israeli Settlements in the West Bank; (b) Means of Expulsion: Violence, Harassment and Lawlessness Toward Palestinians in the Southern Hebron Hills; (c) Take No Prisoners: The Fatal Shooting of Palestinians by Israeli Security Forces during "Arrest Operations"; and (d) One Big Prison: Freedom of Movement to and from the Gaza Strip on the Eve of the Disengagement Plan.