B’Tselem Apologizes Over Holocaust-Denying Staffer

NGO had previously rejected claims staffer had denied the Holocaust

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Left-wing Israeli human rights group B'Tselem has acknowledged that one of its staffers called the Holocaust "a lie," weeks after denying the charge and standing by the employee.

The organization initially defended the staffer, research associate Atef Abu-Alrub, telling the Washington Free Beacon that he was simply translating the words of another Palestinian who questioned the Holocaust, not voicing his own personal views.

But newly released video showed that Abu-Alrub did deny the Holocaust, B'Tselem acknowledged on Sunday.

Gonzo journalist and playwright Tuvia Tenenbom first reported that B'Tselem's Abu-Alrub called the Holocaust "a lie" while taking him on a guided tour of the West Bank last year. Longer footage of the exchange was made public last week.

"Sadly, I misled you, and I'd like to apologize," B'Tselem spokesperson Sarit Michaeli told the Free Beacon in an email on Sunday. "Several days ago, a longer segment of the footage was made public. … In view of this new information, we would like to amend our response on the matter, which we had made in good faith."

"We wish to state plainly that a B’Tselem employee did in fact make the statements of his own volition, and we wholeheartedly abhor and reject the sentiments he expressed."

"It's a lie," Abu-Alrub said on the video, when asked about the Holocaust last year by Tenenbom.

Tenenbom was posing as a left-wing German reporter named "Tobi" while researching his book, Catch the Jew, which was published in Israel last month. B’Tselem often takes journalists on tours of the West Bank to witness alleged human rights abuses committed by Israelis.

Michaeli said Abu-Alrub is still employed by B’Tselem, and the group has yet to decide whether it will take disciplinary action or conduct a review of his research. He added that B’Tselem would likely resolve this after the seven-day Jewish festival of Sukkot, which begins Wednesday.

B'Tselem told the Free Beacon last month that it had "addressed the matter with Atef [Abu-Alrub], who categorically denies the accusations and states that it is a falsehood and a misrepresentation of the interaction, designed to damage B’Tselem."

At the time, the group demanded full video of the incident, saying that this could vindicate its employee.

It also sent the Free Beacon a statement from Abu-Alrub insisting that he did not deny the Holocaust.

"The genocide that the Nazis committed against the Jews, is an indisputable fact that only an ignorant or insane man would contradict," said Abu-Alru in the statement. "I am neither, and I have no shred of a doubt that what happened to the Jewish people is a despicable crime that any human being must condemn."

Tenenbom told the Free Beacon last month that his reporting on the incident was accurate.

"If B’tselem really stands behind the words given to you, I challenge them to go to court and sue all of us for libel," said Tenenbom. "Let them sue. It will be fun."

B’Tselem was founded in 1989 as a human rights documentation center focused on Israeli policy in the Palestinian territories. However, critics say the group has an anti-Israel agenda. The Israel-based NGO also maintains an office in Washington, D.C., and works closely with U.S. and international news media.

Alana Goodman   Email | Full Bio | RSS
Alana Goodman is a staff writer for the Washington Free Beacon. Prior to joining the Beacon, she was assistant online editor at Commentary. She has written for the Weekly Standard, the New York Post and the Washington Examiner. Goodman graduated from the University of Massachusetts in 2010, and lives in Washington, D.C. Her Twitter handle is @alanagoodman. Her email address is goodman@freebeacon.com.