Far-left Israeli NGO B'Tselem is licking its wounds after falling short in an online vote to win a 100,000 euro-grant from the Dutch government – and is blaming "right-wingers" for spoiling its chances.
B'Tselem – which receives most of its funding from foreign, primarily European, donors – was among 30 NGOs and charities running for the Dutch Human Rights Tulip 2015.
Six candidates – including three "public favorites" along with another three "wild cards" selected by judges – will be shortlisted for the prize money, following which "an independent jury will meet and advise the Dutch minister of Foreign Affairs, who will select the winner."
B'Tselem initially surged into a comfortable lead, thanks to a persistent and slick social media campaign urging supporters to vote.
But then something went wrong.
Israelis incensed at the prospect of an organization which harasses, provokes and "hounds" IDF soldiers through the courts receiving such a lucrative prize, mobilized themselves and began voting for human rights activists challenging B'Tselem for the top spots.
Voting ended September 16, and when the official results were announced on the morning of the 17th B'Tselem had fallen to fourth place, behind Burmese human rights activist Phyoe Phyoe Aung, Iranian minorities rights activist Maziar Bahari and Afghan children's rights activist Azizullah Royesh.
B'Tselem could still be picked for the shortlist as a "wild card", as could fellow anti-Israel NGO Adalah, which finished in sixth place.
Despite that, as its rapidly declining position became apparent B'Tselem took to lashing out at its critics on social media. In particular, the group accused the NGO Monitor watchdog and unspecified "right-wingers" of "manipulating" the vote – by encouraging people to vote for other candidates.
B'Tselem CEO Hagai El-Ad fired the opening salvo, posting a Dutch news article claiming "right-wing Israelis" were "sabotaging" the vote by… voting.
When challenged by NGO Monitor to explain how an internet poll could be "sabotaged" by people voting for other candidates, El-Ad responded by accusing the group of "endorsing the manipulation."
B'Tselem attempted to save its fading bid by calling on its supporters to "win the battle" against what it termed "Occupation agents" – but to no avail.
Sara Haetzni-Cohen, who heads the My Israel movement, told the AI Monitor site she was proud Israelis were voting to ensure "worthy people who truly do operate on behalf of human rights" would be voted into the top spots.
Professors For a Strong Israel Chairman Ronen Shoval even received a personal message of thanks from Phyoe Phyoe Aung's husband.
B'Tselem still has a chance of winning though, assuming it is shortlisted as a "wild card" and judges reject the vote in its favor.