Amnesty International Has No Charity for Israel
We all thought Oxfam was the most bigoted international charity organization but along has came Amnesty International to displace it from the pinnacle of shame. What is it about these supposedly good will international organizations that makes them so disproportionately obsessed with and so biased against the State of Israel and its citizens? What makes them so little aware, in any consistent way, of issues in the other 192 countries in the world?
Amnesty International (AI) describes its mission as undertaking research and action focused on preventing and ending grave abuses of human rights. Indeed, it has drawn attention to some abuses in a number of countries. It also claims to be independent of “any government, political ideology, economic interest or religion.” But this claim is spurious because AI’s main focus has been on one government and its alleged deficiencies, Israel and its behavior towards Palestinians.
Over the last twenty years, activities of AI have shown a persistent attitude of criticism and even hostility towards Israel. Its official statements have referred to the “ethnic cleansing” in Israeli society, to the racial supremacy of Israel, to the expulsion and dispossession of Palestinians, and to the “current structure” of Israel as an apartheid state. It has no genuine title to neutrality.
AI has supported the movement to boycott Israel. In a manner familiar from the diatribes of antisemites, it has criticized Israel for exploiting the memory of the Holocaust in order to oppress the Palestinian people. It defended the anti-Israeli, and implicitly antisemitic, remarks of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad when he was President of Iran. It hosted in January 2012 a book party to launch a book, Palestinians in Israel: segregation, discrimination, and democracy, written by Ben White, a relentless critic of Israel. AI also hosted In November 2010 a meeting of the Russell Tribunal which then discussed “Israel’s violations of international law.” It published in October 2009 an inaccurate report on water resources in the Gaza Strip: it held that Israel’s “control of water is a tool of apartheid.”
Some of the pronouncements of AI have been over the top. It declared that the Israeli blockade of Gaza prevented “thousands of Palestinian students” in Gaza from pursuing higher education in the West Bank. AI seemed totally unaware of the considerable number of Palestinians who attend universities in Israel as well as in Palestinian areas. It demanded that the Israeli government stop limiting access to education for Palestinian students in the Gaza Strip, as well as for Israel to lift completely the blockade of the Strip. It also charged Israel with “war crimes” during the Operation Cast Lead in July 2009 in Gaza. AI disregarded the fact that the blockade was started to prevent the smuggling of weapons and rockets used against Israeli citizens.
In June 2012 AI issued a report , Starved of Justice: Palestinians detained without trial by Israel, which was in fact a strong attack on the Israeli legal system. Curiously the report was issued without the names of any authors, though two people, Deborah Hyams and Saleh Hijazi, were listed as researchers or “media contacts.” Both are ideologically motivated.
Hyams, who grew up in Oxford, is a constant critic of Israel. She agreed to be a “human shield” for Palestinians in Beit Jala in the West Bank to stop Israeli response to attacks of gunfire and mortars. She understood, without precisely approving of them, that suicide bombings against Israelis are “in response to the occupation.” She approved in 2008 of a letter stating that Israel was founded on terrorism and massacres. Hijazi, born in Jerusalem and raised in Ramallah, in a statement on December 8, 2007 called for a general boycott of Israeli products to begin on December 9. He had worked for a number of years for the Palestinian public relations office in Ramallah.
Other prominent members of AI staff have expressed similar critical statements of Israel. Kate Allen, the director of AI in the UK wrote on December 7, 2010 in Foreign Policy of “the harsh reality on the ground (in Gaza) for civilians trapped in this tiny enclave.”
A more outspoken individual, Kristya Benedict, listed as the crisis response manager for AIUK, has constantly referred to Israel as an apartheid state, called for a boycott, and declared, “the blockade of Israel has turned it into an outdoor prison.” Benedict has organized a number of events for anti-Israeli activists. He displayed both his wisdom of international politics as well as his character when he listed Israel, together with North Korea, Burma, Sudan, and Iran, as a “stupid dictatorial regime,” and threatened to assault physically a pro-Israeli individual. In equally bad taste he thought it a joke to remark on November 20, 2012 that three Jewish members of the British Parliament in a bar ordered a round of B52s to deal with Gaza. Was AI ever conscious of or did it ever mention the antisemitism evidenced by its staff?
Now on February 20, 2014, AI published a 87 page report, again without named authors, entitled Trigger Happy: Israel’s use of excessive force in the West Bank. It gave attention to specific deaths. The report accuses Israel of “war crimes and other serious violations of international law.” It is itself excessive, and trigger-happy, in stating, “Israeli soldiers have repeatedly committed serious human rights and humanitarian law violations.” It details carefully selected accounts of the killing and wounding of Palestinians who “do not appear to be posing a direct and immediate threat to life.” It finds Israel guilty of “a callous disregard for human life.” It therefore calls on the international community to “suspend all transfers of munitions, weapons and other equipment to Israel.”
What is extraordinary is not only that this AI report minimizes or ignores the large number of attacks by Palestinians on Israeli forces and civilians in the West Bank. It also pontificates on the improper use of force by Israel in an area where the issue of security is paramount. The Secretary-General of AI, Salil Shetty, an Indian national formerly at the United Nations, himself admitted in an interview on February 10, 2014, “we are not experts on military matters. We do not want to pontificate on issues we really understand.” He might have criticized the AI statement that “petrol bombs pose little or no threat” to the lives of Israeli soldiers.
Certainly some abuses have occurred as Israel soldiers have tried to prevent or restain violent or even terrorist attacks. However, Shetty and other AI spokespeople should have been aware of the substantial increase in Palestinian violence. These included 5000 incidents when rocks were thrown and other incidents that caused harm to more than 130 civilians and soldiers, shootings, the planting of improvised explosive devices, and the murder of a soldier. The AI neglected the view of Colonel Richard Kemp that the IDF operates at the highest military standards.
Certainly AI’s Middle East director Philip Luther is unaware of this. He is prone to excessive rhetoric about Israeli behavior. He speaks of a “harrowing pattern of unlawful killings and unwarranted injuries of Palestinian civilians.” Israeli forces he stated, “appear to have recklessly fired bullets at the slightest appearance of a threat.” Even more he believes that “the arbitrary and abusive force (by Israelis) against peaceful protestors… suggests that it is carried out as a matter of policy.”
Despite their proclaimed objectives of international assistance, the AI, like Oxfam, is a bigoted group, more interested, for reasons of its own, in criticizing Israel than in providing any real help for Palestinians or Arabs in general. At a moment when 120,000 have been killed in the brutal civil war in Syria and millions of its residents have been rendered homeless, and when 500 demonstrators were killed in a single day in August 2013 in Egypt, it appears incongruous for AI to issue a long, anonymous report on Israeli arbitrary and excessive force.
It is time to proclaim the truth. These so–called international charity organizations have an agenda of their own that has little to do with charity or justice in the Middle East or with accepted standards of morality. By its new report Amnesty International is pulling the trigger against resumption of peace negotiations between Israel and Palestinians.
Michael Curtis is author of Jews, Antisemitism, and the Middle East.